What's next for Apple?

Apple's product pipeline and management will likely make the company successful in the short term

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management

Apple for years rallied around its charismatic co-founder, Steve Jobs, so it's only natural now to question whether the company can retain its market dominance and magic with a new leader.

Jobs, who stepped down as the company's CEO on Wednesday, has stamped his personality on Apple's operations and products. Under Jobs' leadership, Apple not only sparked the personal computing revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, but more recently established new directions in technology with iconic products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Jobs has been replaced as CEO by heir apparent Tim Cook, formerly the company's chief operating officer, who was Apple's public face during Jobs' medical leaves. Cook is considered an operations person, but has shown his ability to run Apple's day-to-day operations during Jobs' leaves of absence.

Cook has the drive and has also silently been at the center of Apple's recent successes, said Edward Marczak, an author and executive editor of MacTech magazine.

"While the market may worry, those who have stuck by Apple through it all know there's only more excellence ahead," Marczak said.

But there are questions about his ability to continue the spirit of innovation embodied by Jobs, whose headstrong management style inspired workers and helped the company think ahead of market trends. Cook previously was responsible for Apple's sales and operations, and has revamped the retail side of the company's business with the establishment of Apple stores.

"Cook is very talented. But he doesn't have Jobs' innovative spirit -- it's just not in the DNA," said James Post, professor at the Boston University School of Management, in an interview.

Jobs will remain at Apple as chairman and will be involved in design and product decisions, so his influence could be felt on Apple's products for years. But Cook was clearly Jobs' first choice for CEO, and in a letter he "strongly recommended" to the board that it appoint Cook to the position.

Some company observers believe that Jobs has established a blueprint for Apple to follow and churn out hit products, laying the groundwork for Cook to succeed. Nevertheless, Jobs' absence from daily operations will leave a creative and management void. Without Jobs, whose charismatic management style inspired workers to think outside the box, there are questions about how long Apple will be able to sustain its ability to lead market trends.

"Visionaries are easy to find, but great visionaries who can go from concept to reality to execution to mass marketing are rare indeed," Post said.

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