For approximately the next six months, California-based Apple Computers will function without its chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Jobs.
For most firms a CEO on vacation, even on an extended one, would signify nothing more than a temporary change of leadership. Daily operations would proceed without change and no significant changes would be expected in business.
But when Jobs catches a cold, or in this case a hormonal balance, the whole world seems to clear its throat. The day after Apple announced his leave of absence, the stock opened almost 6% lower.
Apple fans and tech enthusiasts are wary of the future of the company without Jobs at the helm. Apple’s success since Jobs returned to the firm in 1997 has been nothing short of spectacular. In the two years before that, his predecessor Gil Amelio had seen the company run up $1.86 billion in losses.
Everything changed with Jobs. Over a decade, Jobs and his team at Apple managed to completely reimagine the way we saw computing, communications and entertainment. Even the most tech-averse consumer knew what an iPod or an iPhone was. Apple’s iTunes music distribution platform helped to empty out traditional music stores.
But, above all, Apple’s products did to hardware what Google did to the Internet: they made products intuitive, easy to use but powerful. And it made people want to own them. Under Job’s watch, Apple stock appreciated at least 2,000%.
However, financial pundits now wring their hands in discomfort. Why should a company’s stock fall because of one person? Isn’t Apple bigger than Jobs? Shouldn’t Apple’s board assuage investor concerns by declaring a succession plan? Look at how Bill Gates slipped off-stage gently.
All those concerns are justified. But what if Jobs is the secret behind Apple’s success? What if everything we have come to love about Apple owes itself to Jobs? What if that is one turtleneck sweater that is just too big to fill?
As far as Apple fans are concerned, there is only one good ending to this story: stock fundamentals and corporate best practices be damned; please bring back Jobs. We need new iPods.
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