Steve Jobs may have been beaten to the punch by Mark Zuckerberg at Time, but at the Financial Times, the CEO of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) today got the gong as its person of the year. The iPad gets special mention for how its appearance in January “capped the most remarkable comeback in modern business history.”
Whether you love or hate Apple — and the slightly sinister, if powerful, illustration that the FT uses for its article does highlight this dual response — it’s hard not to be impressed by the turnaround Jobs has led over there, transforming it from an also-ran computer company to arguably the most influential player in mobile, if not all consumer electronics — while himself coping with his own turnaround issues (which, significantly, included recovering from a liver transplant).
Apple indeed has had a tremendous year in mobile. From the iPad in January, in May it became the world’s most valuable technology concern — a title that it took from its classic rival, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). When it launched its next-generation iPhone 4, three million were sold in the first three weeks. Even when that iPhone got slated for reception problems, the infamous “antenna-gate”, Apple quickly recovered composure and continued to pick up market share.
And although we keep hearing about app fatigue, Apple’s App Store, now with more than 300,000 apps and counting, is still the go-to platform for pretty much anyone doing anything new in mobile content. (Yes, we know there are exceptions, and there will likely be more in the months and years to come, but Apple still dominates.)
Taking all this into account, the FT has picked an obvious winner in Steve Jobs as its person of the year.
But it’s also somewhat of a self-reflexive accolade: the FT itself has been one of the leading adopters of mobile apps (and specifically apps for Apple’s iOS-based products) as a way of disseminating its own content, and of supplementing the revenues that it makes from traditional media. The company made £1 million ($1.59 million) in advertising alone from the iPad app between launching in May and October, at which point it had 400,000 subscribers.
The FT even gave its employees an “iPad subsidy” towards the cost of their own device (although they could actually use it for another tablet). The holiday season isn’t the best time to bite the hand that feeds you.