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In the wake of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) disclosure that CEO Steve Jobs will go on an undefined medical leave, speculation has turned to what his absence will mean for the company and how Apple's leadership team will handle Jobs' second medical leave in two years.
In a brief email he sent to employees, Jobs said he will take the absence so he can focus on his health, and that he will continue to be involved in the company's major strategic decisions. Jobs took a leave of absence in the first half of 2009 and received a liver transplant. He returned in late June of 2009. Apple COO Tim Cook will assume day-to-day control of the company's operations, just as he did in 2009.
Analysts and observers are divided on what the medical leave will mean to Apple's fortunes. Many described Jobs as a singular force within the company, which he co-founded in 1976 and has led to a stunning revival -- based on the success of the iPod, iPhone and iPad -- since he returned to helm the company in 1997.
"The person who can keep the trains running on time is a scarce commodity, but not as rare as someone who can do breakthrough innovation," Michael Useem, a professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times.
Despite the speculation about the undefined nature of the new medical leave, many are optimistic that Apple will continue to remain a market leader. When Cook took over, he kept the company on track with plans for the iPad tablet and iPhone 4. Additionally, much of the product planning and execution for 2011 is likely already well underway at Apple. Cook also is backstopped by a strong management team, including Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president for industrial design, and Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief.
"If there is an impact on Apple's competitive position and openings for competitors, it's something that plays out in that kind of three- to five-year timeframe," Forrester analyst Charles Golvin told Bloomberg.