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Apple: Steve Jobs on medical leave

Some distressing news: Apple CEO Steve Jobs, perhaps the most heralded CEO of this last decade, is taking a medical leave of absence, according to the company yesterday.

This is a sad turn of events for Jobs, who had a liver transplant and in the past suffered from pancreatic cancer. Of course, his taking leave has wider ramifications potentially for Apple, which is firing on all cylinders and has never been in better shape.

John Gruber, popular Apple blogger at Daring Fireball, counsels that there's nothing to panic about. Though Jobs is a charismatic and high-profile leader of Apple, the company has a deep bench and has endured a long absence by Jobs before, Gruber says.

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Today, Apple is supposed to announce its fiscal '11 first quarter results, and analysts are predicting another blow-out period for the company. This good news would temper a dip in Apple's stock today, which saw a 5 percent drop on the CEO's medical news. (Stock markets were closed yesterday when Apple announced the news -- smart.)

But there's no reason to think Apple won't continue to be on a roll for many more quarters to come as it innovates on its iPhone and iPad products, which are market leaders. But how much do Apple consumers relate with -- and trust -- the (product) wisdom of Steve Jobs? Millions of people love their iDevices and seem to appreciate the carefully cultivated image of Steve Jobs as benevolent dictator of the Apple brand.

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If Jobs gets to a point where he can't even be involved in high-level executive decisions, will the company be able to develop and launch its next innovative, category-creating product -- the way it did the iPad?

The masses seem content with their iDevices and the choices Jobs makes when bringing them to market. I'd say it's an interesting relationship to say the least. What will happen in the long-term if Apple doesn't have their CEO as their greatest pitchman?

I'm actually pretty confident that Apple will be on a roll for a long time to come, even if Jobs ends up cutting ties with the company because of his health. I say that because it seems Apple has really refined the methods and process of product creativity, innovation and go-to-market strategies. This takes more than a charismatic leader, but a deeper institutional know-how and corporate DNA that's been infused in the company over the past decade.

Thousands of its employees drink the "Kool Aid" so to speak, in a good and profitable and beneficial way. This is one of Jobs' legacies as a corporate leader. He's got people who work for him who are completely committed to the enterprise.

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