Steve Jobs's (temporary, perhaps) absence from Apple, Inc. will be just a blip on the radar. In an e-mail to Apple employees, Steve Jobs announced he would be taking a medical leave from the company until June. Saying that his “ health-related issues are more complex” than he originally thought. He told employees that Tim Cook would lead the organization during his leave and that he looked forward to seeing them again “this summer”.
Rumors about his declining health have been flying around as furiously as iPhones off store shelves. Ever since it was announced that he had pancreatic cancer in 2004, we have heard from analysts, critics and bloggers that have predicted the end of Apple’s market dominance if Steve Jobs were to depart.
When Apple announced that 2009's Macworld would be it's last and that Steve Jobs would not be delivering the keynote the blogosphere erupted in a guessing game about the CEO's health.
I agree with the notion that there is no company in America, likely in the world, who's identity is as closely identified with it's CEO as Apple. I also believe that Steve Jobs has been the driving force behind Apple's successful product offering. And even though I do believe there is a cult-like following of the all-things-i-maker (to steal a phrase oft used by Ken Ray) I believe that happened because they filled a need. As my college economics professor often said, "it is better to have demand first, then supply." Apple didn't create the iPod and hypnotize millions of people into thinking they wanted one. Millions of people wanted something better than what the market was offering. Apple filled the need better than anyone. Sure, Steve Jobs had a great deal to do with revolutionizing the music industry but he had some help.
Apple has become much bigger than just Steve Jobs. To say that he is the lifeblood of the company is to take away a great deal of credit from all of the talent that exists within the rest of the company.
As a self-professed Apple fan-boy, it is a little scary to imagine Apple without Steve Jobs (I have only been an Apple fan since after Steve Jobs’s return). As an Apple investor I can't help but think logically about this. Apple has remarkable design, distribution, strong financials and from an outsider's viewpoint, a very capable executive staff. Because it is Apple, it can be easy to forget that it is a for-profit, publicly held company and I trust that it will continue to drive innovation in the marketplace and the opportunity for financial return to shareholders for years to come.
Separating the health concern from the rest of the issue - I think this is a positive change. Steve Jobs said he will still be involved in strategy level decisions but allowing Tim Cook to run the organization will prove that exciting new things can still happen at Apple, even if Steve Jobs is only in the background. Perhaps this is test for Apple, a chance to show us, the Mac community, that the company is strong enough to survive and grow with someone else steering the ship.
As for the call from investors demanding to know more details about the CEO’s health, I don’t need to know details. I just need to be re-assured that the company has a plan to succeed without him. I am an investor in Apple, Inc. the company, not the leader alone. Sure, he’s integral to Apple, but again, he is not Apple. I did not invest in the Steve Jobs index fund. If he was the one that built the products and personally sold each of them than I might agree and demand his medical record.
Get well, Mr. Jobs. I hope you are afforded the peace and quiet you need to get better. At the end of the day, it's your well being we should all hope for.
And maybe Flash on the iPhone.