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Apple needs Steve Jobs back, here's why

Posted: 21 Jan 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Steve Jobs? Tim Cook? Apple stock price? Apple CEO?

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, has taken another medical leave, his second in just two years. In a brief letter, he assured his Apple team that he would continue to serve as CEO and be involved in the company's major strategic decisions. Although he gave no timetable, Jobs said he would return as soon as he can.

The details of Jobs' medical condition have not been revealed. Jobs had a cancerous tumor removed from his pancreas in 2004 and underwent a liver transplant in 2009, when he also took a medical leave for six months. Some have speculated that Jobs' latest medical leave could mean that his body is rejecting the transplanted liver or that his cancer has returned.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, will be responsible for Apple's day-to-day operations in Jobs' absence. Cook filled the same role when Jobs took leave in 2009!the earth continued to rotate and Apple continued to reap healthy profits. There is no reason to suggest it will be any different this time.

But, callous as it may seem, Jobs' health issues!and the uncertainty of his return!force Apple employees, investors and fans to confront the unthinkable: The possibility of Apple without Steve Jobs.

"Obviously Jobs is irreplaceable as the industry's innovator, but he has more pressing matters today than being CEO of [Apple], in our view," said Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. "Running a $100 billion annual revenue company while being forced to take periodic medical leaves is not fair to anyone. Cook has performed flawlessly in the past as [Apple's] interim CEO and we expect he will become the full-time CEO of Apple this year with Jobs hopefully serving as a senior advisor."

"If for some reason Steve could not return, the most logical successor would be Tim," said Tim Bajarin, president of consulting firm Creative Strategies Inc. "You can't just bring somebody from another industry or another company into overseeing Apple as CEO and hope they will understand Apple's culture, Apple's mentality and Apple's way of doing things. They already tried that once."

Cook has long been considered Jobs' heir apparent. And while he has proven himself a capable and well-respected leader, Cook!along with nearly everyone else!has one major flaw: He is not Steve Jobs.

Fairly or not, no CEO in electronics is considered to be as critical to his or her company's fortunes as Jobs, who has hoisted Apple to the pinnacle of the high-tech world not once but twice. Apple commands a premium in part because of the aura around its returned founder who was there at the beginning of the PC industry and reinvigorated the company when it had lost its way.

Still, Bajarin argues that Apple would be in good hands with Cook and the rest of the company's deep management team!particularly in the short term. He noted that under Apple's corporate structure, the rest of the executives already report up through Cook.

"What Jobs has done over the past five years is assemble an amazing team of executives who are very strong and capable of directing Apple even if Steve was not there," he said. He added that Apple begins creating its products three to four years before they are put into the marketplace, meaning that Apple's products for 2011, 2012 and even part of 2013 "will have already been cast and had Steve's input."

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