Apple without Jobs? S-e-e-e-elll ! ! !

If Apple shareholders take the attitude summarized in the title of this post, I think they are not only missing the boat, they're also completely missing the pier.

Much breathless speculation has been seen and heard in all manner of tech and financial media as tea leaves are read in the light of Steve Jobs' announcement that he is taking a voluntary hiatus as the guru of Apple, Inc. And according to one graph I looked up, Apple stock appears to have hit a 52-week low because of, or at least roughly coincidentally with, the news that Jobs may have for the last time prowled the corridors of the Cupertino campus like one of the cats after which he names his OS's. Alan Greenspan famously referred to irrational exuberance. This seems to me to be irrational pessimism.

To think that Apple would collapse without Steve Jobs at the helm both gives him too much credit, and not enough. It gives him too much credit because it is not he and he alone who conceives of and designs products like the iPod, iMac, and iPhone. He is the guiding force, but it is not as if he is the sole functioning brain in a hive of drones.

It gives him too little credit because one need only take a single look at the rapt gaze and trickles of drool at the mouth's of attendees at any of Jobs' keynote speeches at MacWorld Expo and World Wide Developers' Conferences to know that Jobs has a forceful, charismatic personality. He has also had over 10 years at the helm of Apple to shape the "culture" (to use one of those corporate buzzwords I hate so much) at Apple, and has no doubt availed himself of every opportunity to do so. Jobs has certainly coached a deep bench of executives, and anecdotal information indicates that any Apple employee whose skin does not display a rich, ruddy tone resulting from faithful exposure to rays emanating from the golden aura of "the Steve" are escorted out of the building without benefit of sunscreen.

He also commands respect, and deservedly so. Apple's product line is surely roadmapped one to two years out, and any future CEO who makes an abrupt lurch away from the course set by Jobs will do so at the peril of losing the faith and morale of Apple's employees and the loyalty of its customers.

(If it sounds like I stole the previous two paragraphs from Alex Lindsay in this week's episode of the MacBreak Weekly podcast, it's only because he seems to have come to almost the exact same conclusion I did, though he may have stated it more concisely.)

I'm certainly no Apple insider, and I don't have a crystal ball looking into the future of the tech world. It would be extremely difficult, though not entirely impossible, to make the case that Jobs' departure would be good for Apple. ("Stepping out of the father's shadow?") But I would bet good money that any report you may have read portending doom for Apple should he not retake the reins. . .was written by someone using a PeeCee.

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