Apple CEO Steve Jobs' Eventual Exit: 10 Potential Outcomes

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-01-18

Apple CEO Steve Jobs' Eventual Exit: 10 Potential Outcomes

Steve Jobs has decided to take a medical leave of absence for an indefinite period of time. The Apple CEO didn't say what's wrong, and would only say that COO Tim Cook will be handling day-to-day operations in his absence. What that means for the future of Apple at this point is anyone's guess. For now, Jobs is still CEO, and he seems loath to give that up anytime soon.

But eventually, that will change. One way or another, Jobs will be forced to step down and hand his company over to another executive who might have a totally different view on how Apple should be run. The result could either benefit Apple or be disastrous for the company. At this point, there's simply no telling what Apple's future will look like without Jobs at the helm.

But that doesn't mean one can't speculate. Below you will find several potential outcomes of Jobs' eventual departure from Apple. Some might be beneficial, while others might be disastrous. But in either case, when Jobs is gone, things will likely change at Apple.

1. The stock price plummets

There is a feeling on Wall Street that Jobs is the only visionary behind Apple's operation. He is the single person who can successfully manage that company through the increasingly competitive technology landscape. When Jobs finally steps down and allows someone else to run the company, it's quite possible that Apple's stock price will plummet. Investors will need to find out if Jobs' replacement is right for the job or not. And they will hold onto their cash until they can make that determination.

2. Apple loses its vision

Apple's vision is currently one of innovation and quality. It's a vision that Jobs himself cultivated. And it's something that few other companies in the United States have been able to match. With that in mind, it's entirely possible that Apple's new CEO will lose that technological vision Jobs cultivated for so long. Jobs knows exactly what he wants from Apple and has never lost his focus. The next CEO will need to have that same level of decisiveness or Apple will lose its current, profitable vision.

3. The corporate culture changes

If Jobs has done anything at Apple, it's create a corporate culture that employees can get behind. The company's vision is marked by innovative design and service at a premium price. And it has proved to help Apple in numerous ways. But whenever a new CEO takes the reins at a company, the person brings a new corporate culture with him or her. And in the process, things change dramatically at the company. The same could be true at Apple.

4. The CEO's revolving door?

Taking the place of Jobs as CEO of Apple, one of the most recognizable and respected companies in the world, is no simple task. Few people have the ability to run Apple the way Jobs has. It's quite possible that the company's board will hire several new CEOs before it can find a single person who can run Apple the way it should be run. Simply put, there might just be a revolving door at Apple before the company can find another suitable leader.

The Next Apple CEO Needs to Stay Focused

5. The next Steve Jobs?

Just as likely as it is that Apple won't find a suitable replacement for Steve Jobs, the company could also find its next great leader. Currently, Apple has several top executives, including Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive, who have worked alongside Jobs for years. And they have undoubtedly learned quite a bit from their CEO. With a little bit of luck and a keen eye, it's possible that Apple's board might find the next Steve Jobs already working at its company.

6. Mac market share slides

With each decision Jobs makes, he's showing that iOS is integral to his company's business going forward. The iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch are cash cows for Apple. And Jobs wouldn't have it any other way. However, Jobs has still been able to maintain the Mac's positioning in the computing space. It's an important consideration that's often overlooked. And any CEO with lesser abilities than Jobs could focus their efforts in the wrong areas and see Mac market share slide.

7. The iPhone loses its way

Apple's iPhone is successful today because Jobs had enough foresight to determine what it needed and what it didn't. He was also able to successfully navigate his way through a sometimes hostile U.S. marketplace that wanted an end to AT&T exclusivity for years. But would another Apple CEO be able to do the same? As the performance of every other smartphone maker on the market shows, no other CEO can achieve what Jobs has. And that could come back to haunt Apple after Jobs' departure.

8. Major management changes

When any new CEO takes over a company, top management is usually left in shambles. Folks toward the top feel they were stepped over, while others think they might have better opportunities elsewhere. Still others feel no allegiance to the new boss. When Jobs leaves and the company has a new CEO, the same will likely happen at Apple. Then folks will need to question if a new CEO with new top management will be able to run Apple the way it was under Jobs.

9. The end of secrecy

One of the key aspects of Jobs' success throughout the years has been his desire for absolute secrecy. While other companies routinely let new product details leak out to prime the marketing pump, Apple hasn't. In the process, he has created a shroud of secrecy that has helped build hype for Apple's products and drive demand. But few other companies have enjoyed such secrecy. Depending on who takes over, Apple's ability to maintain high levels of secrecy could come to an end.

10. Nothing changes

What if Jobs leaves Apple and someone else takes over the company and absolutely nothing changes? It might be more possible than some think. Jobs is a dominant figure at Apple. He has had enough contact with the company's top executives to teach them something. If Apple's board picks well, it might not see any changes at its company. And in the process, Apple will be recognized as the best incubator for top CEO talent in the world

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