Legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs surprised the tech world Wednesday evening by announcing his resignation from the company he founded in 1976 and has led since 1997. Jobs has been struggling with health issues since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003, and has been on sick leave since January. COO Tim Cook, who's been running the company in Jobs' absence, was named CEO. The famously hands-on Jobs will stay on as chairman, at least for now. But what will happen to the wildly successful company without its longtime visionary leader at the helm as CEO? Here, five predictions:
1. Apple will lose its secret sauce
"Jobs was Apple," says PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff at his blog. Most CEOs have some say over product and strategic direction, but Jobs' "fingerprints were all over every single one of Apple's biggest innovations of the last 10 years," and there were a lot of them. If he didn't think a product was ready, he held it back, and he "killed those he didn't like." Tim Cook will run the company ably enough, "at least as well as Mark Hurd ran HP," says tech analyst Rob Enderle, quoted by PC Magazine. But Jobs has a magic touch, and Apple "will not likely be magical again in our near-term future."
2. And the company's legendary design prowess may fade
Jobs was Apple's "ultimate arbiter on products," says Steve Lohr at The New York Times, and his famously good taste and design instincts drew from "his own study and intuition, not focus groups." Cook is a brilliant operations expert, but he's hardly a product-design leader of Jobs' caliber. Indeed, says Jay Greene at CNET. "Jobs' obsession with great industrial and experience design has led to one of the greatest epidemics of corporate envy in business history." Remember though, Jobs has already overseen the next cycle of Apple products, notes Toby Young at Britain's Telegraph, so his "departure won't be felt for at least 18 months."
3. In the end, Apple will continue to thrive
Those who believe "Steve and only Steve holds the magic of Apple innovation" need to get a grip, says David Morgenstern at ZDNet. Not only will Apple not die, says Farhad Manjoo at Slate, but "it's not even going to stumble." There will be small changes — while Cook will be a great CEO, he's unlikely to personally "dash off emails to curious customers" like his predecessor did — but Jobs has baked into Apple some "brilliant managers, unbeatable processes, and a few guiding business principles." In other words, "on the big stuff, Jobs and Apple have achieved a total mindmeld."
4. Maybe now Apple will release products Jobs voted down
Jobs clearly had "strong feelings about design," but he wasn't infallible, says Matthew Miller at ZDNet. Personally, I hope some of the "devices that Steve killed" are resurrected under Cook. For instance, Jobs insisted that a 7-inch tablet is too small, but I find my 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook great for short jaunts, "and I would love a 7-inch iPad." And while Jobs hates them, "I think there are millions out there that would love to see an iPhone with a QWERTY keyboard."
5. Say goodbye to "Stevenotes"
One thing sure to change is "the Stevenote — Jobs' fluid, engaging, product-unveiling keynote address," says Slate's Manjoo. It will likely be replaced with an "on-stage committee" of executives, none of whom have "the panache Jobs brought to the task." More than just showmanship, Jobs had the unusual ability to make people see Apple products "as magical devices, not just cool tech," says Enderle. Cook can't do that.