Our collective 21st century consciousness is bookended by an apple--one in Eden, another in Cupertino.
I dreamt last night of Warren Buffett, Warren Buffett in the back seat of an old convertible mugging for the camera with Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett enjoying a Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen, Warren Buffett being generally silly.
But really, my subconscious was pondering Steve Jobs.
Based solely on the news that broke late yesterday after market's close, it's easy enough to understand the dream's genesis, as the leap from Steve Jobs to Warren Buffett, and issues of succession, is not very far.
The news that Steve Jobs was stepping down should have come as a surprise to no one, yet the timing still jolted, ripped its upside down magic on the market and a stock historically climbing more up than down. It was 2004, the same year my husband got the same presumptive diagnosis, that Steve Jobs was told he had pancreatic cancer--not the six-month-death-sentence garden variety adenocarcinoma, but the rarer, more survivable islet cell. Since then most have realized that the genius of Apple was on an hourglass.
People have a way of stressing about corporate succession, particularly when the corporations are large and powerful and above all successful, as both Apple and Berkshire Hathaway have been. No small amount of stockholder nail biting has gone into the anticipation of Warren Buffett's ultimate stepping down at Berkshire. No small amount of the same has gone into the anticipation of Steve Jobs leaving the helm of Apple. There was fretting at the initial diagnosis and his Whipple surgery, sweating at the more recent liver transplant, despite his continued appearances at corporate announcements, product launches and events.
Curiously, on this day when most of the business news was expected to be about Steve Jobs and his late Wednesday announcement, Warren Buffett managed to eclipse it with a brainstorm from the bathtub, a decision to invest $5 billion in Bank of America, a lightbulb moment meant to renew the collective spirit of investing in, and believing in, America, the future of America, the future of the marketplace and depressed financial stocks. As Apple stock took a hit overnight, Bank of America soared this morning, some cosmic yin and yang playing out in global trading.
There was life before Apple. I remember it. As someone who went to college in an age when the only computers were the size of classrooms and the select few who actually studied them carried around punchcards and pens in their pockets, a good old Mac would have really revolutionized my college experience. That manual typewriter I carted off to school from my parents' bedroom with the black/red ribbon slightly askew had none of the pep and imagination of the creations from Cupertino.
A few of my acquaintances were finally getting those boxy almond colored personal computers with boring aquarium fish screensavers and flashing green dots when I first heard of the MacIntosh. To many of us it sounded like the equivalent of Betamax, maybe better than the competition but likely to be buried by it, a dinosaur in waiting.
I didn't tiptoe into the world of Apple ownership until the iPhone launched, then bought a first generation iPhone and my first MacBook on the same day, land yacht and its tender, all purchased with the proceeds of a few shares of Apple stock I'd bought several weeks earlier.
As skeptical as I was about the charms of Apple, I was hooked, and never went back. I was not alone, which has insured the continued rise of the stock price over several new incarnations of the iPhone, the iPod and now the iPad. Early resisters have surrendered, and those who held onto their Blackberries and Droids now have either replaced or supplemented them with iPhones. Households that once had a single iPhone now have several. Old iPhones and iPads give way to newer, faster, flashier ones.
We are officially addicted.
For all the concern over the future of the company and the stability of the stock price, my thoughts still go to Steve Jobs, who is, above all, battling a battle and has realized that a certain time he hoped would never come finally has.
Apple will continue. The world has been forever changed. I dream of Dilly Bars. Warren Buffett takes a memorable bath. There's a chicken in every pot, and oil for the lamps of China.
I pecked away this morning at a hotel keyboard, an aging PC in the business center, and wished it was a Mac.