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Jobs on "marathon" meetings, successors, and iPods saving Apple

A new interview with Apple chief Steve Jobs reveals some of the company's more extraordinary practices, including weekly reviews of the entire business. It also confirms Jobs' approach to a successor and the crucial role of the iPod in Apple's turnaround.

In his discussion with Fortune, Jobs notes that top staff at the company meet every Monday to review the company's entire direction for the past week — a practice not often seen at other companies, but one which the company co-founder says is essential to coordinating the larger company strategy and fostering independence among the others.

"When you hire really good people you have to give them a piece of the business and let them run with it," he says. "I want [them] making as good or better decisions than I would. So the way to do that is to have them know everything, not just in their part of the business, but in every part of the business."

The technique explains Jobs' confidence in finding a replacement should he ever leave. Echoing his remarks made on Tuesday at the annual shareholders' meeting, Jobs observes that there are multiple prime candidates for the top spot, particularly chief operating officer Tim Cook. Senior officials at Apple are reportedly skilled enough that there would be little risk. "Some people say, 'Oh, God, if [he] got run over by a bus, Apple would be in trouble," Jobs adds jokingly. "But there are really capable people at Apple."

He also uses this approach as justification for his at times legendary reputation for harsh criticism. Pushing employees to their limits improves them beyond what they thought possible of themselves, he says.

The executive takes further pride in the company's ability to say "no" to common business tactics. Consulants have never been brought in to verify the company's own behavior, just those of competitors. Apple has likewise repeatedly turned down some ideas, even seemingly viable ones, for the sake of maintaining its concentration on just a few key product lines.

Of those lines, the iPod may well have proved the most critical. While the Mac has always been the company's backbone, Jobs admits that the iPod proved virtually essential to rescuing the company from its reputation as a niche-only computer manufacturer. The runaway success of the music player helped validate the company's approach, both to itself and to others. Inside the company, the iPod was a "great shot in the arm" to a company used to never picking up more than 5 percent marketshare.

More importantly, he states, it broke the complacence of the market towards options beyond Windows. As people became aware of Apple once again, it gave the company an opportunity to expand and set itself up as a viable competitor to Microsoft and Windows-based PC builders.

"People have finally started to realize that they don't have to put up with Windows - that there is an alternative," he explains. "I think nobody really thought about it that way before."