Apple Solid vs. Android OEMs, Despite Jobs' Role Change

Android OEMs could bolster their share, but not necessarily as a result of Steve Jobs' role change.

Just how good a job has Steve Jobs done as CEO?

Apparently, it's been so good you can't find analysts who believe Android OEMs Samsung, Motorola, HTC and others will gain a competitive advantage with his absence at the helm.

Jobs resigned Aug. 24. Apple installed COO Tim Cook to take his place, taking charge of a company with around 20 percent of worldwide smartphone sales and more than 90 percent of the tablet market, commonly referred to as the "iPad market."

Common logic dictates that when the CEO of major computing company steps down, there's bound to be a lag in the transition. Just look at Leo Apotheker's rocky rule at the top at HP, which ousted the disgraced Mark Hurd last August. Under Apotheker, the company just abandoned its smartphone and tablet hardware business.

Up sprung the meme that "nimbler" phone makers who put their wood behind Google's Android operating system would be able to take advantage of Jobs' absence at the top. As a whole, Android leads the global smartphone market in share. However, that is split between multiple OEMs, with Samsung, HTC and Motorola as the top Android smartphone providers.

"Even before Steve Jobs' (resignation), Samsung was getting more and more optimistic that they can actually take on Apple in the smartphone arena," Mark Newman, a former director of strategy at Samsung, told Reuters. "The game is really now Samsung's to lose ... They are picking up market share because of the change in dynamics in the smartphone industry," added Newman, now a senior analyst for global memory and consumer electronics at Sanford C Bernstein.

Yet Apple defies common logic. Cook has thrice proven his mettle as Apple CEO. That fact and Apple's cash position of $76 billion in the bank are two major reasons why it's full steam ahead as the company prepares to launch the iPhone 5 this fall.

"Jobs' ascension to chairman will have zero impact on the short- to medium-term Apple's iPhone share prospects," IDC analyst Kevin Restivo told eWEEK. "The new titles of Jobs and Cook are a recognition of the roles played by both men for some time. As such, the executive changes won't directly impact our mobile phone operating system share and growth expectations."

Industry analyst Jack Gold agreed with Restivo on the short term, with a caveat for the long term. After all, who is to say what will happen in the industry five years from now without Jobs to guide them?

"Jobs leaving will probably have little effect, at least short term. Apple is on course, and Cook has a record of being able to run the company. Longer term, perhaps Jobs not being there will impede some of the visionary things he did around products, but it's likely that Apple will do fine without him at the helm. CEO transitions for founders are fairly common with strong personalities that move on. Some seem to have little effect on the company market position, and some don't. In this case, I think Jobs has set up a mechanism that allows Apple to move forward without him at the helm day to day. And he's still around in an advisory position, the way I read it. It does sound like he's ill, however, so we need to see what the future brings - of course we all wish him good health."

Looking a few years out, Gold suggested it's possible Android OEMs could bolster their share, but not necessarily as a result of Jobs' role change. "It's going to be a function if they can innovate and catch the Apple juggernaut. I think they can ultimately, but it will take some time. But they are already making steps in that direction (lawsuits aside, Galaxy is a worthy competitor). It will also depend on where Apple goes next, of course. But it takes 2-3 years from inception to product release, so whatever they are doing is already being baked."

Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart outline several bullet points to quash the "Apple is in trouble notion:"

- Does not affect Apple's competitive position in the short or even medium term
- The decision was made quickly and efficiently
- Tim Cook is now CEO; he was acting CEO before
- Apple also has a deep, talented bench
- Steve Jobs is still involved with Apple's strategic decisions as Chairman of the Board

Greengart's cons are that Apple might not continue to be guided by Jobs unerring sense of when and how to enter markets and what features can be left out of products.

That points to the chicken-and-egg challenge of the industry. Despite his talented hardware and software designers, Jobs more than anyone is credited with the creation of the iPhone and iPad. Many industry watchers already believe Android OEMs such as Samsung, HTC and Motorola copied Apple's iPhone and iPad designs. Apple's lawsuits against these three vendors support this notion.

Without Jobs leading mobile computing innovation, can the company continue to drive the industry forward? That remains to be seen.