With the death of Steve Jobs, the technology world is wondering how integral the star CEO was to each of the Apple's products and whether the company can continue the enormous strides made during his tenure.
But from the first breakthrough with the Mac, Mr. Jobs presided over a product-focused culture, and now leaves behind a team of talented executives who have been running the company, with remarkable results, since Mr. Jobs first announced a medical leave in mid-January. No one in the analyst community is panicking.
Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility, said in an interview that an important legacy “is that he's left a really terrific team. They have a really tremendously diversified asset base and product portfolio, and that continues obviously.”
Apple is likely to change over time, partly as a result of Mr. Jobs's absence, but also because Apple is now operating in a new technology landscape – one of its own making, since its hugely popular gadgets have rewritten the old rules for the sector. Apple must now shift, analysts say, toward managing international expansion and bringing out cheaper devices, while pushing deeper into cloud computing.
“A big part of what Steve brought was the power to say no, the power to focus” on delivering products that consumers wanted, said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis. In his earlier days, Mr. Jobs famously berated executives, and was known to pay attention to even the most minute detail. But Mr. Elliot, who worked with him for years, said even though Mr. Jobs was an exacting boss, he wasn't the furious micromanager many people believe – noting it was possible to sway him from firmly held ideas, once convincing the Apple boss that the best place for the Mac's disk drive was not in the rear.
“Underneath it all, there's a very structured process to make it all happen,” Mr. Elliot said. “He is involved more at a macro level, looking at every part of that process… He doesn't necessarily get down into the micromanagement of it, he just puts out enough information, and an overview of his vision and what he wants to make happen. And that really gives people the focus to go and make that happen.”
One of those people is Apple's celebrated senior vice-president of industrial design, Jonathan Ive, who is responsible for the iconic look and sleek design of many of the company's products.
Another is CEO Tim Cook, a tech industry veteran who is known as an operational genius and the masterful negotiator who transformed Apple's global supply chain into the engine powering the company's phenomenal profitability.
This, though, is a new age for Apple. It has used the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad to upturn three separate industries – music, mobile and computing (the latter for a second time) – in the past decade, notes Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin. There may not be that level of disruption in the future, he notes, though the company is pushing into TV – and, as BGC's Mr. Gillis points out, into international markets such as China with cheaper iPhones running off so-called “cloud” services.
But can the company continue to churn out ground-breaking products without the rigorous, emotional demands of Mr. Jobs? In one sense, Mr. Golvin says, the company doesn't really have to: Apple likely has at least two years worth of products in the pipeline, designed with Mr. Jobs's help – the. iPhone 4S was introduced this week. But at the same time, the top leadership team may no longer have Mr. Jobs's vision to guide them.
“All of these people are extremely skilled, they've proved their ability to deliver stupendous results in their particular areas, but they've always done so under the leadership of this one man and his vision,” Mr. Golvin said. “Now they're going to have to try and achieve those same results without that … It runs the risk of leading to some challenges.”