Why Investors Are Looking Past Steve Jobs

Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Chief Executive Steve Jobs went to Tennessee to get a liver transplant while on medical leave. Investors don't seem to care. That's what the math tells me.

Shares of Apple were down roughly 1% in early trading today, well short of the 5% haircut six months ago when Jobs handed the reins to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook amid speculative reports that he was considering -- wait for it -- a liver transplant.

If investors aren't as worried this time, it could be because a healthier Jobs is on track to return to Apple by the end of June, an Apple representative told the Journal. Even so, the newspaper cites a source who says Jobs' doctors may encourage him to work part-time for at least a couple of months.

So be it. As the Journal story was breaking, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster was counting sales of the new iPhone 3G S. In his research, released this morning, he predicts that Apple and partner AT&T (NYSE: T  ) sold 750,000 handsets over the weekend, far more than his original projection of a half-million.

Turns out the typically optimistic Munster was lowballing it: Apple said in a press release this morning that it had sold more than 1 million handsets, exceeding last year's record launch and making Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM  ) strong opening for the new Pre smartphone look weak by comparison.

Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , meanwhile, faces a tough task battling enthusiasm for the 3G S. Munster's research estimates that 12% of those who bought the new iPhone switched from the BlackBerry, Fortune reports.

Who needs Jobs with numbers like that?

Apple is better off with Jobs than without him, of course. I'm among many who are relieved that he's recovering. But if the hoo-ha over Jobs' health problems says anything, it should be that Apple is a more attractive investment today than it was six months ago. That Apple was the Cult of Steve. Today's Apple is the Cult of Mac, iPhone, and the i-Yet-to-Be-Created.

What's more, going by 3G S sales data, Apple's diversified brain trust -- a structure more like Steve Ballmer's Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) than Michael Dell's Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) -- shares Jobs' penchant for exceeding expectations.

Investors don't care about the Journal report because they've already seen the post-Jobs era, and it doesn't look all that different.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is taking its trading guidelines in for an oil change.


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