Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another End of an Era?

Yesterday, news outlets reported that Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence from his job. This is the biggest news in IT business since Bill Gates announced his retirement from Microsoft.

Unfortunately for Apple, this wasn't good news for the short term.

After the announcement of Jobs's leave of absence was made, Apple's stock dropped 7% in after-market trading, and RBC Capital Markets cut the stock rating to "underperform". From what I've seen on the business news channels, the business analysts are speculating that stockholders are losing confidence in Mr. Jobs because they think that he is not being forthright with the severity of his illness.

Personally, I think that the stock fell because of a combination of the recession and the fear of the unknown. Tim Cook will be assuming Steve Jobs's responsibilities while he is on medical leave. Although Mr. Cook assumed the CEO responsibilities in 2004 when Mr. Jobs was recovering from cancer, he is still a relative unknown. The charismatic Mr. Jobs was the "face" of Apple for so many years. People saw the enthusiasm and energy when he unveiled a new product. It was obvious that Apple enjoyed being the technology innovator. Many in IT watched Apple grow exponentially in other markets other than the personal computer market. After all, the term podcasting wouldn't be in our lexicon today if Apple didn't invent the iPod. With Steve Jobs, the public knew where Apple stood. Without Steve Jobs, questions arise: What direction does Mr. Cook plan on taking with Apple? Will Mr. Cook demonstrate the same enthusiam over inventions and innovations in IT, or will he be just "the substitute teacher" until Mr. Jobs returns or until they hire a new "Steve Jobs"? What is the real chance that Steve Jobs is coming back? Those are the questions that would make an investor think about whether the stock will give them a high return on investment or a low return on investment.

This is the time to watch what Apple will do next. I also hope that Mr. Jobs's illness isn't serious and he makes a speedy recovery.

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