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Cook takes the Apple reigns as Jobs steps down as CEO

by Phil Hornshaw

It was big news Wednesday: Steve Jobs, long battling health problems and having been on extended medical leave for much of this year, has stepped down as chief executive officer of Apple. When the news broke, Apple shares fell slightly based on investors’ fears that the company, long known for innovation, would lose some of its well-known swagger and trend-making devices without Jobs at the helm.

It might be the end of a 14-year era, but Jobs isn’t gone for good. Although in his resignation letter to Apple he said he was no longer able to fulfill the duties of CEO, Jobs requested to remain on as chairman of Apple’s board of directors, which means his influence will still be felt within the company. And though he’s largely believed to be responsible for Apple’s meteoric rise during the past decade with its many innovative products, including the iPod, iPhone and iPad, he’s just one guy – and Apple is a lot bigger than just Steve Jobs.

Taking the lead from Jobs is Tim Cook, Apple’s former chief operations officer, known by many as the “operations guy” at Apple, as PCWorld puts it. Cook has been seen as the natural successor to Jobs for some time; indeed, he has been running things in Jobs’ place while he’s been away on medical leave, which has been going on since January. That means Cook has been building up experience guiding the ship for Apple, which means he should be well-positioned to move forward even without Jobs in a day-to-day management role.

There are skeptics who are worried about the direction Apple will head without Jobs, thinking that the company’s successes in the last few years have been due mostly to Jobs’ leadership and ability to identify trends before they happen. But Apple also has a lot of powerful elements in its staff, as Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg told PCWorld. Here’s a quote from that story:

‘There is also more to Apple than Jobs, including great design and marketing teams that have helped Apple launch its successful products,’ said Gartenberg. He pointed as an example to Jonathan Ive, senior vice president for industrial design, who was the creative force behind the iPhone, iPad and iPod.

And we’ve also heard that for at least the near future, Jobs is going to be “closely involved” in the products he’s been helping work on in 2011 – namely, the iPhone 5 and the iPad 3. At least, that’s the rumor being reported by MacRumors and the Wall Street Journal, but it makes a whole lot of sense, especially given that Jobs came out of medical leave for the launch of the iPad 2.

Add to that Apple’s dominance in the smartphone market and especially the tablet market, and things would have to go pretty quickly south for Apple to be in bad shape. There should be ample time for the company to adjust to new leadership while continuing to be a force in so many markets. Sure, Jobs isn’t at the helm anymore, and there will likely be changes – but it’s pretty likely those changes aren’t going to mean the decline or death of Apple anytime soon.