Apple announced Monday that its visionary chief executive and cofounder, Steve Jobs, is taking an indefinite leave of absence "to focus on [his] health." Neither Jobs nor the company elaborated on Jobs' condition, and despite Apple's red-hot product lineup, investors in Europe sent Apple's stock plummeting on the news (U.S. markets were closed Monday). Jobs says he will stay on as CEO, but handed "day-to-day operations" over to COO Tim Cook, who also ran the company when Jobs took medical leaves in 2004 and 2009 to battle pancreatic cancer and have a liver transplant. Apple thrived during those periods, but will it suffer now if Jobs is away for long — or even departs permanently? (Watch an AP report about Jobs' announcement)

This is going to hurt: Investors will punish Apple over this announcement, and rightly so, says Charles Arthur in The Guardian. Many of them "see Apple as Jobs' creation — and him as the engine of its progress," its DNA, and the final arbiter of all design decisions. Cook is a good manager, but he lacks Jobs' magic touch and "showman's ability that ignites the passions of Apple's many fans." In fact, it's not clear anybody "could possibly follow Jobs if the worst happens."
"Steve Jobs – what next for Apple?"

Jobs has left Apple in good hands: Sadly, my guess is that the worst will happen and "Jobs isn't going to return to Apple," says Farhad Manjoo in Slate. But "we shouldn't be too concerned about Apple's fortunes...." Just as Jobs' vision of computers and gadgets as easy-to-use "mainstream appliances" has conquered the tech world, his views have "also become something of a religion at Apple," and "every Apple executive" is a well-versed believer.
"Why Steve Jobs won't return to Apple"

Apple will do well, but it won't be the same: "Apple's management ranks are among the best in the world," says Dan Frommer in Business Insider. But after an initial period when the company continues to seamlessly roll out Jobs-approved hits, "Apple could lose its edge," its talent, or both. Let's face it, "Steve Jobs is Apple," and his obsessive touch is what makes "Apple products Apple products, and not Dell or Motorola or Microsoft products."
"Apple is fine without Steve Jobs, for now..."