So Steve Jobs has stepped aside, handing the Apple CEO duties to COO Tim Cook, the man who has been standing in for Jobs during his extended leave of absence. The announcement shocked many in the industry, even if Jobs’ health problems have meant his departure has been on the cards for a while.
Twitter, blogs, news outlets were all soon swamped with opinions good and bad on the future of Apple. Will the empire crumble without Jobs leading it? Will Cook, groomed as the next CEO for a while, continue the company’s recent growth?
Apple has built its success since Jobs returned to the company on a series of sleek, minimalist gadgets that people want to own. It’s a simple way of doing it, but as Apple’s competition has proved over the last few years, it’s not something any company can do.
What was it about Jobs that created such huge interest in his reign and now his departure. "Most people are lucky if they can change the world in one important way, but Jobs, in multiple stages of his business career, changed global technology, media and lifestyles in multiple ways on multiple occasions," explains Walt Mossberg on AllThingsDigital.
"He did it because he was willing to take big risks on new ideas, and not be satisfied with small innovations fed by market research," Mossberg continued. "He also insisted on high quality and had the guts to leave out features others found essential and to kill technologies, like the floppy drive and the removable battery, he decided were no longer needed."
What does the future hold for Apple now? "Writing on Twitter, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, said: "Tim Cook has demonstrated during Jobs’ leaves of absence that he can provide the leadership that Apple needs to continue in its success."
"Apple is Steve Jobs’ life. Chairman role or not he will continue to be involved for as long as he can," she added. "Apple’s competitors would be fools for thinking that they can take advantage of Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO."
Her colleague Michael Gartenberg added: "Consumers buy products from Apple because they’re good products not because they’re from Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs will continue to leave his mark on both the company and products even as he transfers the reins."
"While this marks the end of an era for Apple, it’s important to remember the there’s more to Apple than any one person, even Steve Jobs. Continuing as chairman Mr. Jobs will continue to leave his mark on both the company and products even as he transfers the reigns to Mr Cook," he added.
Apple’s roadmap is planned out years in advance, and as noted, Cook has been waiting in the wings for a while now so short-term it is unlikely Jobs’ departure will have a negative impact on Apple.
"But longer term there is more room for doubt," notes CBR editor Jason Stamper. "Not only is Jobs largely credited with Apple’s turnaround in the Nineties, but many of the firm’s most iconic designs are said to have been heavily influenced not only by designer Jonathan Ive and his team, but by Jobs himself. He is said to be maniacal about ease of use, sending products back to design if they are not immediately intuitive."
Ovum’s Jan Dawson noted the, "short-term sell-off of Apple shares immediately after the announcement is driven by fears that Apple will not continue to perform as it has once Steve Jobs leaves the CEO role. However, these fears appear relatively unfounded at least in the short term."
"Longer term, however, if Steve Jobs’ health is indeed behind his resignation, as many have speculated, and his condition worsens to the point that he can no longer be involved in even occasional decision making at the company, there are reasons to fear that the company will struggle to emulate its recent success," Dawson added.
Forrester analyst JP Gownder said Jobs’ legacy will continue long after he leaves Apple and the company is in safe hands. "While Steve Jobs will go down in eventual history as an outstanding innovator, leader, and world-changer, Apple is actually much more than its leader alone. For the immediate future, product strategists should go about their daily lives and work to find innovations that will help them compete with Apple’s formidable, tech industry-leading position," he said.