We all know what happened to Apple when Steve Jobs was forced out of the company1 by then CEO John Sculley. Apple without Steve Jobs’ direction was not the Apple that we know today. Jobs has turned Apple into a market leader, innovator, and design oriented company. The natural question then is what happens to Apple after Jobs leaves again?
As reasonable people we know that at some point in the future Jobs will not be with the company (most likely through age or retirement). At this point should we advice that everyone dumps stock and runs away scared? I think not.
If you look at the current landscape we have a pretty clear idea of what I would consider to be a worst case scenario for Apple – that scenario is Microsoft. Bill Gates left the CEO role, then left the company – handing over the reigns to those that he had been working closely with for years.2
Many see this as a terrible outcome for Apple and for Microsoft – but is it really that terrible? They are sitting on roughly $37 billion in cash and gross profits in the $46 billion range. That is not a failing company by anyones standards.3
Remember too that I said early this is a worst case scenario for Apple post Jobs. If Jobs leaves Apple and appoints a reasonably competent CEO then at the very least Apple retains profitability and produces mediocre products (such as Microsoft has been doing). As a consumer and Apple fan(boy) this is tragic – as a stock holder this is not the best news, but hardly worth jumping out of a window over.
Now of course this is all assuming that Jobs leaves Apple rudderless when he leaves. I would guess that when Jobs leaves he will be leaving with a 5 and 10 year road map already in place at the company. The product cycles may or may not slow after he leaves, but the vision that he instills in the company on the daily basis will still serve as an over arching compass for the company.
Add to all this the fact that because of Jobs every person currently with Apple (mostly the upper tier of management) knows what has driven the success of the company for the past decade and knows of that importance. Jobs has in effect instilled his personality and business belief system into all of the employees that he works closely with.
Assuming there is no mass exodus or power struggles when Jobs leaves I would suspect that Apple will be just fine without Jobs. At the very least Apple with remain profitable and viable for the short term (10 years) after Jobs leaves.