In an interview with The Financial Times yesterday, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg had this to say when asked about the competition posed by Apple’s iPhone:
“It’s very cool. And Steve Jobs eventually will get old… I like our chances.”
That’s got to be one of the most indelicate utterances by one CEO regarding another.
Mr. Seidenberg is about a decade older than Mr. Jobs, so he can’t possibly be referring to his age with the most unfortunate “Steve Jobs eventually will get old” phrase. He must be referring to Mr. Job’s frail appearance at the Apple WWDC in June.
Apple said Mr. Jobs was suffering from a “common bug” but various pundits and AAPL shorters claimed it was due to his recent brush with pancreatic cancer. Nobody outside of his immediate circle really knows what may or may not be medically worrisome with Mr. Jobs, but why would a competitor’s CEO feel the need to raise it so brazenly?
This chart covering the period from Mr. Jobs’ cancer diagnosis in October 2003 to the present might give a clue (red: Apple, blue: Verizon):
What’s peculiar is that Apple doesn’t directly compete with Verizon: the former is the maker of the iPhone, the latter is a carrier. The competitor Verizon should actually be worried about is AT&T, Apple’s iPhone carrier partner in the U.S.
What should really concern Verizon’s board, however, is why 18 months after the announcement of the iPhone, the Verizon camp hasn’t been able to come up with any remotely credible “iPhone-killer”? They should ask their CEO what other concrete plans he might have to compete with the iPhone other than hoping that Apple’s CEO drops out of the picture due to “old age.” How does the $20.3 million-a-year CEO of a $100 billion company like Verizon display so openly its inability to compete on innovation by placing its “chances” on the demise of another CEO?
Can you imagine another CEO, even such an old adversary like Bill Gates (or even Steve Ballmer, not lacking tackiness otherwise), would ever make such an ill-wishing statement? For shame. The least Mr. Seidenberg can do is to apologize to Mr. Jobs pronto.