Today we learned that Apple CEO Steve Jobs would be taking a health-related leave of absence from Apple, his second in recent memory. While Jobs will remain involved in Apple operations when it comes to major decisions, COO Tim Cook will be taking the reins when it comes to the day to day operations of the company. Certainly things are going to be a little different around the Apple campus while Jobs is gone, but the question is, will the company be affected negatively during the absence?
There are a lot of reasons why people are right to worry about the effect that Jobs' absence may have: he's known to be controlling and a perfectionist, he's a pretty good presenter, and he's basically the face of Apple. Like I said before, this isn't the first leave of absence that Jobs has taken lately, but it has the potential to affect Apple quite a bit. With major products like the iPhone 5 and iPad 2 coming within the next few months, it's possible that Jobs will miss out on the opportunity to present these products to the public. Sure, the company will have someone take his place like Phil Schiller did at the iPhone 3GS announcement in 2009, but it seems pretty obvious that Schiller isn't quite the same type of showman that's able to build hype like Jobs.
Besides the short-term effects of not having Jobs present new products in the near future, there are also concerns that Jobs' absence could have more long-term effects on the company. After all, in his previous letter announcing his temporary departure, Jobs said that he planned to return in June. This time, though, there's no ETA given for the CEO's return. Of course, Jobs said that he'd still be taking part in major decisions, but with the possibility that he could be gone for a good length of time, Apple could end up being effected more negatively than they were in 2009. Certainly the company's stocks are going to take a tumble, although the hurt from Jobs' announcement could be curbed slightly after Apple announces their earnings tomorrow. Still, things around 1 Infinite Loop won't be as cheery as they were last week before this latest leave of absence.
On the other hand, Apple did just fine (for the most part) during Steve Jobs' time off in 2009, so there's no reason to believe that things will be different this time. Schiller did pretty well for himself when he announced the iPhone 3GS, and whether it's Schiller or Cook presenting the iPhone 5 and iPad 2, I'm sure that those debuts will be just about as big as they would be if Jobs were the one doing the unveiling. After all, it's hard to argue that Apple products are some of the most-hyped around. I'm sure that Apple could just have some nameless retail employee walk onto a stage, place the iPhone 5 on a table, and walk off without saying a word and it would still be a big deal. A lot of the more long-term decisions are likely already pretty solid and require little input from Jobs, anyway, and it's not like the CEO is going to be completely absent from Apple during his time off.
It can be tough to predict what will happen to a company when it loses a high-profile figure, especially with a company like Apple, but I have a feeling that they're going to be ok. We don't know the specifics of Jobs' leave of absence, but as long as he's not leaving the company entirely, which seems unlikely, then we can probably expect the future to be business as usual. Other Apple execs have worked with Jobs enough that they know how he operates and what decisions he'd make, and I'm sure that they'll make many of the same moves that he would if he were there. Apple stock is almost assuredly going to fall, but with well-trained employees like Schiller and Cook running the show and Jobs leaving his fingerprints on products and decisions, even from afar, I'd be willing to bet that Apple will be fine.