Last time this happened, Apple shares fell pretty hard. Jobs is considered pretty instrumental to Apple’s success, especially of late -- he was behind the company’s push toward elegant design and more user-friendly, ubiquitous products like the iPod and MacBook.
Then, of course, there’s the iPhone and the iPad, along with the iTunes App Store to go along with them. Those huge products have helped propel Apple to become one of the biggest tech companies in the world, taking the smartphone market by storm and helping to create a whole new sub-genre of tablet PCs.
Last week, when Apple announced the Verizon (VZ) iPhone, lots of people expected Jobs to be at the event in New York -- instead, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was on-hand for the announcement. Cook is taking over day-to-day operations for Jobs while he’s gone, and is considered the natural successor to the 55-year-old CEO when he eventually steps down from his post.
What to expect in the coming year
So what does this mean for Apple in 2011? It’s tough to say. Obviously the Verizon iPhone announcement went down without a hitch with Cook taking the lead. Jobs is Apple’s public face and showman, though -- his keynote speeches are always massive press affairs.
The next few months are expected to be pretty big for Apple, too. Most everyone around the Internet expects the iPad 2 to drop in April, right around a year to the day from the release of the original iPad last year. That event will be huge, and it’s only two months off. Following that is the 12-month cycle for the iPhone, with an expected release of the iPhone 5 in June. We’re also expecting to see multiple versions of both products to support the new deal with Verizon as well as AT&T’s [T] network.
Those products are probably more or less in the bag at this point: even if Jobs were gone all the way through the expected iPhone 5 launch, Apple likely wouldn’t suffer greatly. Where Jobs will be most missed is in developing future products -- things we haven’t seen and don’t yet know about.
Jobs’ past health issues have only come out after the fact, and Apple is being very closed-lipped about the entire situation. Don’t expect to find out anything for the time being, and that includes what Jobs’ situation might be or how long he’ll be gone. When he was absent in 2009, the CEO received a liver transplant. In 2004, he was reportedly cured of a rare form of pancreatic cancer known as an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.
It’s hard to speculate about the future of Apple today -- too early to tell, in short. Cook has shown he can handle Apple’s day-to-day operation, and Jobs is still CEO. But, whether Apple’s shareholders will be confident about the change or that Jobs’ health will recover is another question entirely.