Steve Jobs leave of absence – raises question about Apple’s long term

The iconic leader of Apple will be taking another leave of absence due to medical reason.

I realize that we are all replaceable. Jack Welsh left GE, they seem to be doing fairly well. Bill Gates slowly diminished himself in the world of Microsoft and they still churn out massive amounts of cash every quarter. Bill Clinton could not run for a 3rd term and…never mind. Companies, countries and organizations can survive and do thrive after an iconic leader moves on. However, no company embodies its leader as does Apple. Jobs’ influence on the direction and strategy of Apple is legendary. The iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes, Apple TV and all the other products that Apple has churned out have Jobs’ fingerprints all over them. One might argue that Apple has developed its own momentum and could finally be able to thrive without their founder leading the charge.

I am not so certain. I think that Apple, while enjoying incredible success recently, might be heading into some rough waters ahead. Google and the Droid operating system are a real threat in the smart phone world. The Droid operating system is device agnostic so unlike the iPhone can be sold via a wide host of handsets. The aforementioned Microsoft seems to want to reassert themselves in the mobile game with their new Windows 7 phone. On the tablet side there are a number of manufacturers looking to take a piece of iPad pie: Blackberry, Toshiba, Dell as well as the Kindle and Nook are all looking to own a part of the tablet market. No doubt iPad is the clear leader, but there are some serious challengers on the horizon. Finally the battle for the home is only beginning. With Apple TV and iTunes, clearly Apple wants to own the content that goes to you shiny new 50inch LED HDTV. Then again so does Google – Google TV, Sony with their TVs and the PS3 system, Microsoft with the XBox and Kinect, as well as all the set top manufacturers with their DVRs.

Steve Jobs has been able to keep Apple ahead of these competitors, nothing short of amazing. Without him at the helm will Apple keep up this momentum? Not sure. This next year will be vital for Apple – ver 2 of the iPad, iPhone 5 and the push for Apple TV. Without a strong, visionary leader in place Apple might not be able to enjoy the success they have come to expect under Jobs.

I would hope that Apple has put in place a plan of succession for leadership, groomed or identified who will keep Apple going. Time will tell.

We are all replaceable, but when it comes to Apple, Jobs might be more difficult to find a replacement than in other organizations.

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