Only 24 hours after the announcement that Steve Jobs would take a second medical leave, a lot has happened in the Apple rumour mill. Unlike his last leave of absence, Jobs hasn't stated when he is expected to be back and many felt a pessimistic choice of words in his letter to employees unveiled yesterday: "I love Apple and hope to be back as soon as I can," he wrote. The market has already punished the company shares, 4.7 per cent down yesterday.
It shouldn't be surprising how the messianic of the world's most valuable CEO impacts share price. However, Tim Cook, who took over in 2009 during Jobs' absence, will continue with his COO job title and fill in the gap while he is away. In the last years, Cook has gained much prominence in Cupertino, being a key figure in negotiations with mobile phone carriers for the roll out of the iPhone and a strict negotiator with Chinese manufacturers. What would take this man to have an "insanely great" year?
"You get these iconic CEOs, where the company takes on their personality. And once that personality leaves, that company is never the same" Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Analysts know that he is capable of running the day-to-day operations of Apple successfully and he has taken an important role with shareholders in cases like the "Antennagate" last year. On top of that, Apple's surprises for 2011 have already been planned and he should just follow the schedule. It is my guess that all the strategic decisions have been taken and that Apple is not going to change at all in the short term. Everything to happen in the next months, see the recent Verizon deal or the Mac App Store, have had a lot of thinking and hard work in the past months.
The year ahead
After what we've seen at CES all the visionaries might agree now that Apple has taken the lead with a premium-priced tablet for its huge fan base and new late adopters. Believe it or not, one year in the iPad's life cycle, there is not a direct competitor in the market yet offering similar functionality for this price. According to our wet dreams a common sense, Apple is in the making of a second version of the iPad. Follow the clues: employees are told to prepare for a big launch in February, new iOS beta seeded to developers includes new screen resolutions, Chinese case makers show new prototype docks and retailers are already listing new SKUs for Apple products. It's a no brainer. The only question to ask is when this will be launched. Apple's stock will surge in the build up for the great event of the year and I haven't mentioned yet the new iPhone 5 with a new form factor. From my app freak perspective, I could only wish for the convergence of the iOS AppStores, but I don't see this happening now.
For Tim Cook, the man loved by analysts who want to see high profit margins and clean balance sheets, the only question is how Apple is going to capitalise on it's acquisitions to face its biggest nemesis: Google and Android. The success of a new version of the iPhone and its pricing will be paramount to secure its market share. Competitors are growing in numbers, but the new Verizon iPhone has other operators worldwide waiting for the same deal. Eventually, On the software side, we've had a peak of Lion OSX, which could be demoed again this year and would be a massive boost for the newly opened Mac App Store. Full-screen apps will take over whether we like it or not, and this means that household names will adapt to the new trend making us pass through the till again.
I can only wish Steve Jobs to have a speedy recovery to be back at he does best. Having Tim Cook in the spotlight will only help Apple in the long term and provide reassurance for shareholders and Apple fans alike.