Steve Jobs has announced he is taking some medical leave, and some people want to make this out to be a big deal. Guess what? It really isn’t. Yes, Steve is an important part of Apple, and his absence may have some minimal impact. But there are some things that need to be considered before people overreact to this news. Sadly, most people, including some analysts, won’t think, and instead act as if the news is bad. This could be a chance to pick up some Apple stock at a slight discount. Anyways, for those that are willing to stop and consider things a bit, here are some things to think about.
First, Steve is still carrying on as CEO, and I suspect will still be involved in some of the more important aspects of the company. Granted, it won’t necessarily be as “hands on” as his involvement has been in the past, but he hasn’t left completely. In some ways, this is good, because it gives the other senior people at Apple a chance to find their own pace and balance, having Steve available when necessary to provide some guidance. But Steve will leave Apple some day. Unless someone invents some form of immortality, even Steve has an expiry date, just as we all do. So, Apple needs to be able to keep the company moving forward without him.
Second, while Steve is very much a hands-on executive, and has played an important part in Apple’s products (and their successes), Steve didn’t do all the work by himself. He does have a team of people, and they all buy into his ideas and his philosophies. Their take will be slightly different, and they may not do things quite like Steve would have done, but the results should still be good. Apple has a lot of smart people, and Apple wouldn’t be where it is without them.
Last, Steve’s image in the public eye is different for the mainstream consumer than it is for many of Apple’s developers and loyal fans. The presence or absence of Steve from a product launch notice (like his absence from the Verizon announcement) isn’t viewed as an issue by the average person, and had he been there, wouldn’t have meant any more to most consumers. What they care about is that iPhone 4 is on Verizon. As Apple’s customer base has grown, the influence of what Steve says and does has lessened to a degree. It still matters to developers who build products on Apple technology, and it matters for a tiny core of Apple customers. But it isn’t nearly as important to the increasing number of average consumers who own an Apple product.
Personally, I wish Steve best of luck and a swift and speedy recovery. I do hope he comes back to Apple full-time, but if he chooses to do otherwise, then I still wish him well. Apple is better with him than without him. But Apple will still continue to be a success if Steve decides it is time to move on.