Apple's board of directors is informed about new products anywhere between six to 18 months before they're announced to the public, according to current board chairman Arthur Levinson. The comments emerged
at a Tuesday speech by Levinson at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The former Genentech CEO added that while the Apple board doesn't usually have much influence on product design, the input of board members is sometimes taken into account, if enough lead time is available.
One member's opinion may sometimes be given more weight if they have related expertise, but Levinson otherwise suggests that a good board stays out of the way of the CEO and other executives at a company. "The board is not there to define product specs," he said yesterday. "It's there as a sounding board, it's there as a resource, and ultimately, the board is there to hire and fire the CEO."
The chairman also addressed the topic of what life at Apple has been like since the death of Steve Jobs, calling it "weird." Levinson joined the Apple board in 2000, and was one of Jobs' close friends. In his speech Levinson remarked that it's still hard to ignore Jobs' absence, even as Apple continues to put out new products without him. "I'm still not to the point where I walk into that board room and don't miss Steve," he mused. "He was a one of a kind guy...The Steve Jobs that was in the public eye was not, for the most part, the Steve Jobs that I knew."
Regarding the company's recent quarterlies
and its future, Levinson downplayed the importance of specific figures. "There [are] long-term signs of how a company is doing and whether or not Apple sells 47 or 48 million iPhones -- let somebody else worry about that."