Jay Elliot, Apple's former senior vice president, has talked about the outlook of Apple's future without Steve Jobs, in a blog posted on Blogging Innovation.
Steve Jobs has been on medical leave since January, and many fear that he might not return to the company. Jobs remains Apple's CEO at present, but there is speculation that Tim Cook, the chief operating officer at the company, will take over from Jobs as CEO later this year.
Elliot, who is also the author of The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation, believes that the company will continue to thrive without Jobs. "Steve is not replaceable as a charismatic, visionary leader of a consumer-product-centric company, but he can be replaced by a triumvirate to carry on his legacy," says Elliot. Elliot's use of the word 'triumvirate' suggests he believes three people would be required to replace all the elements that Jobs brings to Apple.
Tim Cook is the leading contender in line for Steve Jobs' position at Apple. Cook has taken over Jobs' day-to-day duties in Jobs' current absence and ran the company last time Jobs took leave for health reasons: "Cook has proven himself in this role [CEO] since he has already so successfully kept all the separate pieces functioning during Steve's absences."
Elliot reflects on the other characters at Apple who impact on the success of the company, including Jonathan Ive, the principle designer of the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, will still be designing for Apple should Jobs leave for good. However, UK newspapers this week resurrected the rumours that Ive will soon be leaving Apple and returning to his home in Somerset.
It is understandable that there is uncertainty among analysts and fans of Apple, after Jobs' three and a half decades at the company, but Elliot reminds us that other big companies have managed to continue their success after their founders have left, for example Walt Disney and Sony's Akio Morita. The reason these businesses are successful, think Elliot, is that "all these leaders has put very strong organisations in place to keep their companies on course".
"All the principles of product development, leadership, talent, and sales, are on display at Apple and I do not see that changing without Steve," says Elliot, adding that "in the 2000s, Steve put into place products, sales, and other fundamental aspects of running a successful business" and suggesting that these are "fundamentals that will see the company remain the leader in innovations, and thrive, well beyond this decade."
It has not been confirmed that Steve Jobs won't be coming back to the company, and in a message he sent to his employees Jobs said: "I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can." Nevertheless, Elliot is convinced that Apple will continue to produce successful products without Jobs, keeping the modern, futuristic characteristics of the company.