Steve Jobs, departing as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s chief executive officer after a more than 9,000-percent share gain since 1997, leaves the company he co-founded in the hands of deputies to prove they can keep building best-selling products that change how people compute and communicate.
After building Apple with sleek PCs, remaking the wireless industry with the iPhone and creating a company whose market value approaches $350 billion and rivals Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Jobs is handing the CEO title to Tim Cook. His team, tasked with designing the next generation of Apple electronics and keeping the Jobs cachet, will seek to extend Jobs’s legacy while fending off rivals like Google Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
“Given the depth of its pipeline and its execution, Apple will continue to be the benchmark in the technology sector,” said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at New York-based Rodman & Renshaw LLC. “We do not see anything on the horizon that can even remotely match what Apple has offered.”
Apple’s next set of challenges includes expansion in China, the release of new versions of the iPhone and iPad tablet, and the introduction of an online service that lets customers store music and information across a broad range of Apple devices.
Cook, the chief operating officer who has been leading Apple during Jobs’s medical leave, will get assistance from an executive team that includes Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design; Scott Forstall, who is in charge of the iOS software that powers the iPhone and iPad; and Philip Schiller, who leads product marketing.
Bob Mansfield heads Mac hardware engineering, and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer is tasked with overseeing Apple’s more than $75 billion in cash and long-term holdings.
Jobs, who is becoming chairman of Cupertino, California- based Apple, told the board he intends to be active in the new role, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it,” Jobs said in his resignation letter. Jobs has fought a rare form of cancer and survived a liver transplant.
Apple may be poised for success in the immediate aftermath of Jobs’s departure because it is releasing products whose design he set in motion.
The iPhone, Apple’s top-selling product, is set for a refresh by October, while analysts predict another version of the iPad next year. The Mac computer line is growing at a faster pace than the personal-computer market.
All three are the fruit of Jobs’s attention to detail and preoccupation with creating elegant devices that are reliable and easy to use. The company Jobs co-founded with Steve Wozniak in 1976 may face stiffer challenges in the coming years, when strategic vision is set and products are okayed by his successors, said Fred Anderson, former chief financial officer.
“Apple probably has its product pipeline set for the next 18 months, so Tim won’t have to worry about vision for that long,” said Anderson, who resigned from Apple’s board in 2004 and is now a managing director at Elevation Partners. “But can they come out with the next great iProduct. What’s going to come out in 2013 and 2014? They need to start thinking about that.”
Apple’s growth in smartphones has come at the expense of rivals including Nokia Oyj and Research In Motion Ltd. Hewlett Packard Co. has struggled to produce a viable competitor to the iPad and is aiming to spin off its personal-computer unit.
‘Scratching the Surface’
Apple’s biggest competition may come from Google, the maker of the Android mobile operating system, said Abhey Lamba, an analyst at ISI Group in New York. Google said on Aug. 15 it’s spending $12.5 billion on Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. to bulk up in smartphones.
“The new management team will have to prove itself in terms of innovation and the next thing that will keep themselves ahead of the competition,” Lamba said. “Investors are going to be a little careful.”
Apple fell $7.34, or 2 percent, to $368.84 at 10:03 a.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market, after earlier dropping as much as 3 percent.
An area where Apple has room for growth is in China, where sales rose more than six times to about $3.8 billion last quarter from a year earlier.
“We’re just scratching the surface right now,” Cook said of the region in a July 19 conference call. Apple has yet to land the iPhone on China Mobile Ltd., the country’s largest mobile-phone carrier.
Apple will soon start selling iCloud, which adds features that let users access content on multiple Apple devices. The service will automatically store photos, videos, and changes to documents, calendars and contacts in Apple’s data centers, and then sync it on all of a person’s other Apple devices.
That could attract new users who don’t want to bother with uploading, downloading or syncing multiple devices, and spur existing customers who may own one or two Apple devices to buy into Apple’s more closed approach completely, said Walter C. Price, managing director of RCM Capital Management.
“ICloud could be one of the biggest things in Apple’s history,” said Price, an Apple shareholder in San Francisco. If the service works as advertised, it could add $100 billion to Apple’s market value.
Even under Jobs’s successors, Apple has a shot at becoming a trillion-dollar company in five years, said Tony Ursillo, an analyst at Loomis Sayles & Co. in Boston. It can do that by increasing sales about 15 percent a year for five years to $220 billion, which translates to about $50 billion in net income.
Getting there will hinge on whether Apple can maintain market share for its flagship products. Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach in San Francisco, said Apple can double the size of its computer business, including Macs and iPads.
The two products together generated $11.2 billion last quarter. If Apple expands its iPhone product line, which generated $13.3 billion last quarter, that business could triple, he said.
For Apple’s leadership team, maintaining confidence may be toughest of all without Jobs as the visionary, said Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple manager and a founder of venture investor Garage Technology Ventures in Palo Alto, California. Jobs routinely took risks that few executive teams or boards would agree to support. Examples range from killing the iPod Mini at the height of its popularity to building a chain of retail stores even though other computer companies had failed.
“For so many decisions at the company, Steve said, ‘It’s this way or this way,’” Kawasaki said. “And now it could be less clear. The worst-case scenario is Apple deciding it’s going to be a customer-driven company, and they start running focus groups and market research to determine what customers want. If anything, Steve has proven customers can’t articulate what they want.”
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