Once out from under Steves leadership the Palm executives walked away from both Steves good and bad practices. The end result was a train wreck. When Craig Barrett took over from Andy Grove he was like a kid in a candy store and Intel went into non-aligned businesses and got much more aggressive against AMD. Intel struggled and the resulting anti-trust litigation cost the company billions and the changes there are likely nowhere near as dramatic as Apple is likely to see, because Andy was nowhere near as controlling as Steve Jobs is.
Think of it as having a very controlling parent. It is our tendency to want to revolt and showcase our own judgment and skills when not being told what to do (and being called stupid for disagreeing). Over the years Steve has seemed to drive anyone that could replace him out of the company, so Apple doesnt appear to have anyone like Steve to just step in and be a virtual Steve Jobs (you saw this while he was away on sick leave).
Now think of the iPad. Steves presentation was that it needed to be better than a notebook and a Smartphone which is solid on message. But the iPad is done and it isnt better than either, suggesting that even now there is a big gap between his message and the companys execution.
I wonder if Steve wasnt more of guest host at this last launch. To me it didnt have the same feel as other launches and clearly the device has a lot of people worried (be aware a lot of us were concerned about the iPhone as well, so this last may be nothing).
One of the things that the technology industry does very poorly is skill transfer. Dennis Carter, arguably one of the best CMOs that ever existed in the technology industry, was followed by folks that seemed to fall at the other end of the scale because there was no apparent mentoring.
Steve Jobs is unique in the market but his skills didnt transfer to Palm and likely wont remain in Apple when he leaves. In all successful firms mentoring should be a higher priority to assure that the success the firm currently enjoys continues indefinitely something that almost never happens.
Palm is a warning of not only what could happen to Apple but any successful firm when the folks who made the company a success leave the firm and dont leave behind their success making skills. Something to think about.