You might have to go back as far as Henry Ford to find a revolutionary company that was as closely associated with its visionary founder as Apple Inc was with Steve Jobs.
So the question everyone was asking after Jobs’ resignation late Wednesday was whether a company that has done so much to shape our digital world could continue to thrive now that its inspirer—in—chief has relinquished day—to—day control of his vision.
The initial assessment of the market was not encouraging. Within minutes of the announcement, Apple’s shares plummeted 6 per cent in after—hours trading, indicating investor nervousness about Jobs’ longtime deputy Tim Cook taking over as chief executive.
It was easy to understand their reaction even if cooler heads might see it as a knee—jerk reaction.
Jobs has time and again proved himself as the top entrepreneurial innovator of the digital age, first popularizing personal computers, then the graphical user interface and mouse, then the first successful digital music ecosystem, not to mention smart phones and tablet computers that changed the way people use technology.
Such innovation has made more than 350 billion dollars for Apple stockholders, and quite a few for Jobs himself — despite him taking only a dollar in salary every year.
It’s an unequalled record in recent history and one that might never be matched again.
So those who are looking for that kind of innovation as Apple moves forward might be missing the big picture, according to technology analyst Carmi Levy. He argued that Jobs built a strong foundation for the company with dominant positions in the smart—phone and tablet markets, and huge expansion opportunities in China, India and South—East Asia. What’s needed now is just someone who can execute Jobs’ vision, Levy said.
“He’s still going to be the big idea guy, and that’s what Steve does best,” Levy said, referring to Jobs’ plan to stay on as chairman. “Not having the weight of the day—to—day responsibility could free Steve. This could be his next chapter, not his last chapter.” Levy also put the stock price drop in perspective. “Six per cent is nothing compared to how the stock has risen in recent years,” he said.
The bigger question people should be asking is whether Jobs would continue to play an active role as chairman, he said: “Is Steve’s move him deciding to focus, or is it him preparing for the end?” Either way, Levy said he believes Apple would continue to thrive under the management team that Jobs put in place.
“If he was so smart to facilitate the creation of the iPhone, the iPod, the iPad, then you have to assume that he is smart enough to have created a succession plan and have enough smart people who can carry on after he’s gone,” Levy said. “He’s been sick since 2004, and it’s been on his radar since then.” Leander Kahney, who runs the website Cult of Mac, concurred that Apple would do fine without its iconic leader.
“It’s a sad day. It’s a terrible day for technology,” he told cnet.com. “The products he’s pioneered have become as big as the telephone, the car.” But Kahney’s confidence in Apple without Jobs was unflagging: “I think the company is going to be bigger than ever. I think Apple’s just on this roller coaster ride and will continue to dominate tech for the next 10 years whether [Jobs is] there or not.”