Business & Finance
09:39 PM

The Job-Less Factor

Industry analysts evaluate Apple's chances with and without Steve Jobs at the helm.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Courtesy of Apple, Photograph by Moshe Brakha
InformationWeek editor Alice LaPlante talks to several longtime Apple observers and pundits, to get their take on the extent of CEO Steve Jobs' influence over the company he co-founded. Can the two be separated?

Charlie Wolf, Needham Co.: "You simply can't separate the company from Steve Jobs. It really deteriorated when Jobs wasn't there. You look at Apple's senior management, and they are truly irreplaceable. Ron Johnson who runs the stores is really terrific--but he's a merchandiser, albeit a genius merchandiser. But someone who has the talent and the management skills and understands the culture--where the company would go I have no idea."

Michael Gartenberg, Jupiter Research: "As my grandfather said, 'The graveyards are full of people who couldn't be replaced.' Jobs is certain to make sure that this will be covered before he leaves--which will be no time in the near future."

Ted Schadler, Forrester Research: "The culture of the organization has seen the benefits of this approach, a closed end-to-end environment that persisted even for the decade when it changed leadership."

John Gruber, Flaming Fireball: "It's hard to overestimate his influence. He's not an engineer, not a programmer. You have to ask yourself, what's his real gift? And it's his taste: what's good enough, and what's the difference between very good and excellent. It's hard to know what would happen. Such a thing is hard to codify. If you don't have that gift, you don't have that gift."

Tim Bajarin, Creative Strategies: "Should he decide to step down--which I don't think will happen for 10 or 15 years--it's clear there are other people within Apple who share his vision or share his thinking. Of course, it will be an incredible challenge."

Gene Munster, Piper Jaffrey: "Apple would be directionless without him. He's the soul of the company, and he represents all the intangibles that it's hard to put a finger on. The reality is that it's still a one-person company. If they got to the point where they had an established place in the living room, and market share back up to the 10% range, then the company would be good enough to be run by someone else."

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