Will CEO Purgatory Hurt Apple? (AAPL)

Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs says he’ll be back in June after five months of medical leave. In the meantime, COO Tim Cook will run Apple’s day-to-day operations, while Steve remains “involved in major strategic decisions” as CEO.

But what if Steve doesn’t come back? Will Apple have wasted five months in purgatory — potentially losing time and direction under temporary leadership?

Perhaps in any other company’s case. But probably not in Apple’s.

We strongly believe that when Apple names a new chief, it’ll be someone who’s already a top Apple executive, not an outside candidate. Potential CEOs include Tim Cook, iPhone software head Scott Forstall, retail boss Ron Johnson, or industrial design guru Jonathan Ive. But probably not someone from outside the company.  Apple tried the outsider thing before, you’ll recall, and it was a disaster.

This means Apple’s next CEO will already know what Apple is working on, the Apple culture, the Apple team, etc. Meanwhile, Apple’s product pipeline is pretty much set for at least the next five months — updates to the Mac mini, iMac, and iPhone, but probably nothing drastic.

So while five months in purgatory under temporary leadership could hurt another company, we think it won’t significantly hurt Apple.  The question, of course, is what happens if the purgatory extends longer than that (or, worse, if Steve doesn’t come back).

See Also:
Meet Tim Cook, Apple’s Interim Boss
Former Apple Exec: Tim Cook’s Been Running The Company For Years
Steve Jobs Takes Leave

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