Steve Jobs' decision to resign as Apple's CEO comes at a particularly auspicious time: over the next few quarters, the company is expected to release the next version of its blockbuster iPhone, along with a new iPad.
The stakes couldn't be higher for either device. Despite its significant market share, the iPhone faces a very real challenge from the variety of smartphones running Google Android. And while the iPad has fended off every competitor thus far, Apple's rivals will continue to hunger for a bigger share of the tablet market.
Not only has Apple's next round of products been in development for some time, but the company almost certainly has a device roadmap extending quite far into the future. Moreover, Jobs leaves his creation in the hands of executives generally acknowledged as among the best in their respective fields. That means Apple, barring some unforeseen complications, will almost certainly run on smooth rails for the foreseeable future.
"Apple's product development roadmap stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built," Forrester analyst JP Gownder wrote in an Aug. 24 corporate blog posting. "Jobs' departure won't affect Apple's product portfolio, quality or competitiveness for a long time-if ever."
He also reiterated the point about Apple's combined talent outweighing the possible impact of its leader's permanent departure: "While Steve Jobs will go down in eventual history as an outstanding innovator, leader and world-changer, Apple is actually much more than its leader alone."
That being said, Jobs has been the very public face of his company for some time, and his departure carries the significant risk of unsettling both investors and the Apple faithful. The best way to mitigate that risk in the short term is to follow his departure with the unveiling of two major products that have already been in the pipeline for some time-a not-so-subtle signal that, even without Jobs, business in Cupertino will continue as usual. (That's not to say Jobs planned his resignation with that sort of timetable in mind-if anything, he's always given the impression of a captain who'd never leave his post.)
In the meantime, his replacement as CEO seems ready to step into the role.
"I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change," former COO Tim Cook wrote in an email to Apple employees, as reprinted on Apple-centric blogs such as 9to5Mac. "Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that-it is in our DNA."
Cook already served as interim CEO during Jobs' periodic departures on medical leave, meaning he knows the ropes. But will he also take over Jobs' role as chief presenter for Apple's product rollouts, or will those events now feature a rotating cast of executives?