The announcement Wednesday evening that Steve Jobs woulld be stepping down as CEO of Apple iscertain to define an era in the company'shistory, namely: Steve/After Steve. It is not the first time Jobs has left the company -- he exited 1985. before returning in 1997,and has been on medical leave sinceJanuary of this year -- but given Jobs' ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer,After Steve Jobs Steps Down,Apple Faces A New Challenge for acompany that has, in many ways, come to define the best of American ingenuityin the 21st century, the departure of its figurehead from day-to-day operationsis not merely a line in the sand for the country's innovation economy, but asymbolic abdication of the throne that brings with it some amount ofexistential despair. Apple employees and iPad owners alike are apt to be askingthemselves, "Can Apple survive without Steve Jobs?"
From alloutside accounts, the answer to this question appears to be yes. Though Jobshas been an outsized force at the company, he has spent the last decadefostering what some analysts have dubbed "a Steve-infused culture" atApple, one that prizes rigor, discretion, innovation and the relentless pursuitof better product -- all in the name of serving the consumer.
It is away of thinking that permeates all levels of the company -- from engineering todevelopment to marketing -- and is so ingrained as to be second nature to Appleemployees. For those questioning what will happen now that Jobs is no longerthe face of Apple, analysts contend they need not worry -- the company has beencreated in his image.
According to James Allworthand Max Wessel, whostudy Apple as fellows at the Forum for Growth and Innovationat Harvard Business School,Jobs is an omnipresent force in the halls of Apple.
"The way he thinksabout problems, the perfectionism, the attention to detail -- that tricklesdown," Allworth said. "Apple has an amazing group of people. Theycome in and they're thinking about new stuff, and if they come up against adecision, the question that always pops up is, 'what would Steve do in the futures?'"
Allworthcredits Jobs with designing small product teams that are "oriented aroundprojects, with a combination of engineers and marketers. They resemblestartups." Such dynamics ensure that the teams keep "an eye towardsdesign and customers," he said.
And ifJobs has created a corporate legacy -- some version of the 10 Commandments forhis acolytes to follow -- Allworth counted among its pillars that employees are"always coming at a product thinking of the end user. A lot of companiesare driven by profit. Jobs asked, 'What are the best products that we canmake?'"
Byrelentlessly "demanding and wanting something better," Wessel said,"it has allowed [Apple] to create products that might cannibalize theirold products -- simply because it is better for the user."
"Thatstandard will serve Apple well," Allworth said. "It feels like theywill be able to do this without him."
Further supporting apost-Jobs Apple, newly installed CEO Tim Cook -- an operations guru who,by all accoununts , iscapable of doing a highly adequate, if not stellar, job -- has the advantage ofan Apple pipeline stuffed with product, including the upcoming Iphone 5 and IPAD 3.With these products already in late-stage development, it will be some timebefore the American consumer can truly judge Cook's ability to create agame-changing product. And with the company's not-insignificant cashreserves of up to $80 billion, Cook will have some room for error.
"I can't imagine abetter scenario," said Mike Amnnor, an assistant professor of strategy at the University ofNotre Dame, who believes that Jobs' health -- and Apple's unwillingness torelease information about it -- created a cloud of uncertainty that did notserve the company well. With Jobs' departure, he said, Apple's market share maybe considerably strengthened.
"AlthoughApple has performed well in the market, its financial performance has been evenmore stellar," Mannor said. "To some degree, there's been a dampeningof the market reaction to Apple's performance, and I would argue that's due toa ripple effect from [the] uncertainty."
Now, withJobs' departure, Mannor believes, "In the short term, there will be themourning of a leader -- some uncertainty and a potentially negative effect onstock. But in the long term, things will net positive."
John Challenger, CEO ofexecutive search firm Challenger Gray and Christmas, said that uncertainty around Jobs' health likelyfostered a better developed succession plan. "Most CEOs think they'regoing to live forever," Challenger said, "so the fact that Jobs hashad pancreatic cancer has put a focus and microscope on building a strongculture and strong future for the company."
If Jobs -- passionate andlarger than life, combativeand forceful by nature -- has left giant shoes to fill,Allworth and Wessel deemed Cook an, "excellent" replacement for him,precisely because he will not override Jobs' reputation. "I don’t thinkCook will put his own mark on the company DNA," Wessel said.
On acertain level, the worship of Jobs and the refrain of "What Would SteveDo?" have undeniably cultish undertones -- but this may be mitigated inlarge part because Jobs has created a constant cycle of product launch andexpiration, where even beloved products like the iPhone don't last forever.
For the newly Jobs-lessApple flock, the most pressing question, of course, remains whether the teamcan exist inside the Mind of Steve while at the same time remembering that thisis, after all, the company that first encouraged people to "Think different"
I think apple willcontinue to produce great products. After years of buying many pc's (due to mykids belief that pc's were better for their games, etc.) and over the years , ipurchased over a dozen laptops and desktops, for them and myself, spent afortune on repairs and spent lots of time taking them back and forth to berepaired. I have had my imac for over 4 years and haven't had a bit of trouble.that is amazing to me. we also love the ipods.
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