The stock market has always had a strange way of mourning a great loss, and the death of Apple Inc.'s Steve Jobs is proving no exception. While newspapers and television programs are filled with praise for the former chief executive and point out that he not only made a great contribution to a company, but also made society a better place with his much-loved tech gadgets, the market is busily downgrading Apple's future on Thursday.
On a day when stocks seemed set to rise globally on vague relief over the European debt crisis, Apple shares slumped more than 2 per cent in premarket activity, with about two hours before markets open for trading. In a sense, this is a mournful response to Mr. Jobs' death: The stock market is suggesting that the company isn't going to be the same without him. But is the market right?
On the one hand, it is a strange reaction. Mr. Jobs had been sick for some time and had taken sick leaves to deal with his illness. His gaunt appearance at public events, even going back two years ago, had observers expecting the worst. His resignation as chief executive in August confirmed that Apple was embarking upon a post-Jobs era. With the stock down on Thursday, though, his loss had apparently not been built into the share price, which is remarkable.
On the other hand, though, his death and the wonderful tributes that have followed, might be forcing investors to take a closer look at Mr. Jobs' input during his years at Apple. Many tributes have focused on his obsession with getting the details just right -- or, at least making them fit his demanding expectations -- even at the expense of alienating some of the people who worked with him. Those qualities, which arguably made Apple great, are going to be hard to duplicate as Apple moves ahead with new versions of the iPad and the iPhone, not to mention the creation of new gadgets that are essential in keeping Apple in the lead of a very competitive industry.
Already, you can see what Apple is up against, in terms of expectations. It launched a new version of the iPhone on Tuesday, and while the device had new capabilities that made it superior to earlier versions, many observers were disappointed that it didn't take mobile communications to a lofty new level. Perhaps worse, investors are now worried that this is an early indication of what Apple is going to be like without Mr. Jobs.