Photo: Associated Press
Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced an indefinite medical leave of absence today, so he can focus on his health.As he did during his last leave in 2009 (to receive a liver transplant), Jobs says he will remain CEO and will be involved in major strategic decisions, while COO Tim Cook runs the company’s day-to-day operations.
In a letter to Apple staff, Jobs says, “I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can.”
But what happens if Jobs doesn’t come back? Or if his leave is prolonged? (Last time, Jobs specifically said he would be on leave “until June” — a roughly six-month leave. This time, he didn’t offer a timeline.)
Apple is fine for now.
The company’s product lineup as arguably as strong as it has ever been, and Jobs’ absence should have no effect on planned product launches for 2011, such as the iPad 2 and iPhone 5. We still expect the new Mac OS X “Lion” to ship this year as planned.
And with executives like COO Tim Cook, marketing boss Phil Schiller, iOS software head Scott Forstall, industrial design guru Jony Ive, hardware exec Bob Mansfield, and retail chief Ron Johnson in charge, Apple’s management ranks are among the best in the world.
But without Steve, Apple isn’t the same. Or as good.
Apple is more than Steve Jobs. The company has tens of thousands of employees, and Jobs obviously isn’t doing all the work. Especially since he returned from medical leave in 2009.
But Steve Jobs is Apple.
He might not write code or design chips. But he makes the big, important decisions that make Apple products Apple products, and not Dell or Motorola or Microsoft products.
Eventually, other execs would make choices Steve wouldn’t make. Talent could leave. Apple could lose its edge.
That’s not to say the company is screwed if Jobs retires. But it’s almost certainly better with Jobs than without him. So his absence will eventually be felt.
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