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Will Apple fail without Steve Jobs, as Oracle’s CEO predicts?

As we reported earlier, there has been a minor flap about Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's interview with Charlie Rose over in the US on CBS This Morning, in which he said Apple is hopeless without Steve Jobs.

When asked what would happen to Apple, Ellison said: "We already know… We saw – we conducted the experiment. I mean, it's been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. We saw Apple without Steve Jobs. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs. Now, we're gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs."

As he spoke, Ellison charted Apple's success with his finger, raising it up when describing "Apple with Jobs" and lowering it when describing "Apple without Jobs."

Apparently, Ellison's memory is selective.

When Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1983, I can assure you the company was in a shambles, mostly because of Jobs being in a rush to implement his ideas. Wozniac had been pushed aside and Sculley was being trained to take over.

The company was doing $800 million (£520 million) and was mostly unprofitable. And Jobs was something of a loose cannon. It was so bad that when he finally left I wrote a column (which essentially got me blackballed from Apple's press list, especially after Jobs returned) that read "Steve Jobs, Good Riddance."

So Sculley took over and steadied the boat and sales jumped from $800 million (£520 million) to $8 billion (£5.2 billion). And that was back when $8 billion was a lot of money.

He stayed until the market stumbled and was then ousted in 1993. He did not help his cause with his then-wacky ideas about tablet computing and landing men on Mars.

That's when Michael Spindler came into power and the real decline began. Having headed the European division, Spindler was never suited for the job and was replaced within three years by Gil Amelio, who was also seriously ill-equipped to run Apple. These two guys essentially took the pay, had meetings, and sank the company. Amelio still claims he did fine.

Jobs finally returned loaded with ideas following his failure at NeXT. He needed the big company to thrive. Back at Apple he got wind of the necessary trends and changed the direction of the company. The course has already been righted once, but are we now poised for a re-run? If so, then Cook will grow the company larger and make more money just as Sculley did.

But there will be a hiccup, probably during a short economic downturn, and he'll be ousted. Then the real decline begins. If history is a fractal, then this will take 10 years.

Of course, Ellison is blind to this reality. After all, he's a silicon valley CEO who lives in his own world. A world you and I are not in. And neither is the truth.