As expected, Apple shares opened lower this morning after the company announced Tuesday afternoon that CEO Steve Jobs would not deliver his annual keynote speech at the Macworld conference. Apple (AAPL) shares are trading down 5.8% to $89.90. Key concerns:
- That Steve Jobs is sick. There are many other potential explanations for Jobs not speaking at Macworld — politics, weak products to announce, etc. But — and we really hope he’s fine — who knows.
- That Apple doesn’t have anything earth-moving products to announce next month. Which is probably true. And a valid reason for Jobs not presenting. But not exciting news for Apple investors.
In a note today, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggests that Jobs’ absence from Macworld is the “beginning in a shift of leadership roles at Apple.” Jobs will remain CEO, but other execs will get more face time.
“While we do not believe that this change provides any indication regarding Steve Jobs’ health, we do believe that it is a sign that we are in the early stages of changing roles in Apple’s management structure,” Munster said.
We think this is valid. And now’s probably as good a time as any to give Apple’s talented management team more face time, as someday — inevitably — someone besides Jobs will be running Apple.
Meanwhile, Schiller’s keynote throws another wrench in Munster’s vision for Apple’s 2009. He initially thought there “was an outside chance” that Jobs would announce a new iPhone at Macworld, the two year anniversary of the iPhone’s unveiling. Now Munster thinks it’ll come sometime in the March quarter. A new iPhone is a key part of Munster’s prediction that Apple will sell 45 million phones next year.