An Apple Scare

There's quite a buzz among investors and technology fanatics today after Apple Computer's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) fearless leader, Steve Jobs, revealed that he had surgery for pancreatic cancer over the weekend. It brought worries about the company's succession plan to the forefront of investors' minds and, indeed, thoughts of what Apple would be without its core -- Jobs.

Granted, it's an inopportune time for a scare like this. Apple's on the tip of many tongues these days; Jobs' face has been plastered on magazine covers at your local supermarket based on the success of the iPod, and whether Apple will dominate music has moved to conversation topic lists at happy hours, parties, and barbecues. Apple's third-quarter earnings sang on the company's musical strength.

Jobs, who is also CEO of Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR  ) , said that the form of pancreatic cancer he had is a relatively benign one, and if caught in time, is cured. (Fortunately, he discovered it early, he said in a companywide email sent using his PowerBook and an Airport Express, according to an email transcript provided by Associated Press.) He said he will take August off and that Vice President Timothy Cook will lead the company in his absence.

Apple shares sank nearly 4% in early morning trading, although recently investors calmed down a bit, with the stock down about 2%. Indeed, Jobs is about as synonymous with his company as Warren Buffett is for Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A  ) (NYSE: BRK.B  ) or Bill Gates is for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . Granted, investors are likely also spooked, given the memory of the abrupt death of McDonalds' (NYSE: MCD  ) Jim Cantalupo in April. Some negative sentiment regarding a cancer scare in a company's high-profile leader is understandable.

However, it seems unfortunate that anyone would bid down the shares in a knee-jerk reaction to news like this, where most of the panic relates to conjecture. And many would argue that there are other, far better reasons to scrutinize an Apple investment, including concerns about lofty share valuation and steadily increasing competition.

What do you think? Do you wish Apple would discuss a succession plan? How badly would the company flounder without Jobs' leadership? Fools are talking about today's news about Jobs on the Apple discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.


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