Steve Jobs, the much maligned and admired CEO of Apple Computer, has been granted medical leave to ‘focus on his health’, to quote straight from the horse’s mouth. But despite been given leave, he will still make the major decisions concerning the company’s next moves.
In January 2009, Jobs took medical leave from Apple to have a liver transplant, and had fought off pancreatic cancer back in 2004. News of his latest absence is thus bound to cause jitters with Apple enthusiasts and investors alike.
Speculation is rife amongst the fansites and forums concerning his health issues and whether he’ll ever be able to come back to Apple. Apple stock trading on the German stock exchange, the DAX, slumped ~6% to €244.05, even reached lows of 10% at some points during trading hours. Whilst the US NASDAQ market was closed yesterday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, pre-market trading has shown the stock to be down 4.36% at 333.42 from 348.48 (5.02Am EST). Whilst stock fluctuations can be taken with a pinch of salt, the fall of the stock price is perhaps an indicator of how much investors value Jobs as part of the Apple brand.
Despite being a staunch Windows user, I cannot help but admire the way Jobs has taken a struggling outfit, almost certainly on its way out, and turned it on its head to produce one of the most iconic brands the world has ever seen. Jobs’ vision, leadership and drive has truly made the company to what it is today.
It’s hugely unlikely that Apple will be affected greatly in the short term. Apple products, whether you love or hate them, are still hugely desirable with the public. And the same teams that design and produce them will still be present at Apple, and will readily produce the next batch of shiny objects (which are also bound to be popular). And despite the slump in stock, when Apple release their latest sale figures (afternoon of Jan 18th), they’re likely to report record sales and hopefully go some way to reassuring investors. The chances are that this is only a temporary departure, and that he’ll come back when he’s ready.
However, Steve Jobs is leaving at the time when Apple may need him the most. Whilst Steve will still be making the major shots, it is likely be in a reduced capacity. iOS is facing stiff competition this year from Google’s Android OS and Blackberry, in both the phone and tablet market. This year is perhaps the most crucial year for Apple, when the competition is incredibly tough.
What if he never came back to Apple? My guess is that whilst Apple will still be a huge force in the technology world, there will be a loss of drive and zeal that Steve Jobs provided when at the helm. Personally, I think Apple may have put too many eggs into the basket that is Steve Jobs. Watching the keynotes and the like, I think Apple too much emphasis on him to launch and promote their highly anticipated gadgets. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be some kind of a suitable successor or ‘backup’ to lead the company in the same manner. (The irony being that having a backup is one of the most important regimens of computing!)
It’s hard to imagine anyone else being able to present those iconic keynote events, where the next iProduct is unleashed unto the world. And I can’t imagine any other of Apple’s employees gaining a loyal following in the way Jobs has. Whilst I mean no offence at all to Deputy CEO Tim Cook, he just doesn’t create the same buzz and atmosphere that Steve does.
Essentially, Apple will still be the same company without him, but without the structural fibre he provides, the company risks unravelling itself and losing it’s status as a prime brand.