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Steve Jobs: Can Apple survive without its leader?

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Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away last night after losing his battle with Pancreatic cancer at the age of just 56, but can the world's most valuable technology company survive without its leader?

High profile figures ranging from US president Barack Obama to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg have already paid glowing tributes to Jobs, hailing him as a visionary in the technology industry.

He passed away just days after Apple launched the iPhone 4S in the first product press conference overseen by new chief executive Tim Cook, who took charge of the firm after Jobs's move to chairman in August.

Steve Jobs unveils the the new iMac computer in 1998

© PA Images / Paul Sakuma/AP

Steve Jobs displays the iPod mini at the Macworld Conference and Expo, San Francisco, 2004

© PA Images / Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP



Worldwide speculation ahead of the launch reached fever pitch, as fans awaited the much rumored iPhone 5 among other new products from Apple.

However, the iPhone 4S - essentially an upgrade on last year's iPhone 4 - largely underwhelmed the world, while Apple's share price dipped by 5% at one point following the disappointing press conference.

While Cook appeared calm and composed at the press event, some commentators have observed that he often left marketing boss Phil Schiller to do most of the talking, leading to suggestions that he is reluctant to step into Jobs's role as figurehead of Apple.

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Patricia Sullivan, a journalist at The Washington Post, noted today that what set Jobs apart was that he did not just design good products, he also sold their appeal to consumers.

"He knew best of all how to market. 'Mac or PC?' became one of the defining questions of the late 20th century and although Apple sold a mere 5% of all computers in that era, Mac users became rabid partisans and dedicated to Mr Jobs," wrote Sullivan.

In contrast, Cook's presenting style has been described as "underwhelming", and lacking the Jobs-style showmanship that made Apple press conferences such global events.

iPad 2

© PA Images



The nightmare scenario for investors and Apple devotees is that the company will lose ground in the absence of Jobs's creativity and business nous, gradually slipping behind rival technology firms in terms of innovation.

These fears are exacerbated upon considering the challenges facing Apple in the majority of markets where it operates.

Smartphones running the Google Android operating system now outsell those running Apple's iOS in the US, while Samsung's devices are gradually gaining strength.

The iPad still holds a dominant position in the tablet computer space, but rivals are starting to find the right mix of form and function to attract customers, particularly when powered by Android's Honeycomb operating system.

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Nitin Bhat, telecom analyst at Frost & Sullivan, told BBC News that Apple is unlikely to be affected in the short term by the loss of Jobs, but problems could come in the future.

"In the short term, the impact is not likely to be that much, as the company already has in place plans for technology and product development," he said.

"But in the medium to long term, Jobs's absence may hurt Apple."

Bhat added: "Product development is not just about getting the technological bit right - it's also about the art of getting the look and feel and the timing of its launch right.

"That cannot be taught. Very few people have it and that is a trait of Steve Jobs that Apple will miss the most."

Tim Cook

© PA Images / Paul Sakuma/AP

iPhone 4S

© Apple



But let's not overestimate the situation here. Apple is packed with some of the most talented minds in the technology industry, and Jobs put together a strong executive team - including former chief operating officer Cook - to guide the firm before he stepped down in August.

The iPhone, iPod and iPad product ranges still sell by the bucketload, while iTunes and the App Store have proved immensely successful and profitable since they were introduced.

Add in the iPhone 4S, iCloud and next year's expected launches of the iPad 3 and iPhone 5, along with the ever growing strength of the Mac over the PC, and you have a pretty good roadmap in place for the future.

Any company is likely to be left reeling at the loss of such an enigmatic and talented leader as Jobs, but it's exactly that legacy of creativity, technical brilliance and business savvy that will ensure the company can "stay hungry" in the future.

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Steve Jobs Memorial L4

© PA Images / Rick Rycroft/AP

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