When considering Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) future, it's easy to assume the technology giant will continue to dominate in sales and predicted growth. However, two things currently working in Apple's favor could spell disaster for the company in the near future.
How did I live before Apple?!
One thing Apple does (arguably) better than any other tech company out there is reinventing "must-have" gadgets so that they appear new and shiny: iPhone anyone? Sure, players like Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) have had their share of new inventions, but what sets Apple apart is its deeper understanding of how people want to interact with the technology. For example, MP3 players have been around 1997, but they didn't command much attention. Then, Apple's release of the iPod in 2001, thanks to its ease of use and slimmed-down design, lit a fire under the MP3 player market.
So, how is Apple able to understand the technology, and how people want to interact with it, so much better than its competitors? Two words: Steve Jobs.
Jobs: Apple's key asset
It's no secret that Jobs is the man who changed the face of Apple. When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he transformed it from a faltering computer company to a multi-faceted tech giant. Let's face it, without Jobs, Apple would have been in serious trouble.
Jobs is a key asset of Apple. As such, when Jobs hurts, Apple hurts. Unfortunately for Jobs and Apple, Jobs has been battling pancreatic cancer since 2003, and whenever negative news regarding his health is released, Apple's stock drops. When Jobs appeared thin at a conference in 2008, Apple shares fell up to 6.5% during the subsequent two days. In January 2011, when Jobs announced he was taking an indefinite medical leave of absence, but would remain involved in "major strategic decisions," Apple's stock plummeted during trading in Europe before settling in on a 2.2% loss on the NASDAQ.
When rumors of illness and medical leaves of absence can negatively influence Apple's stock, the questions Fools should be asking is, "What happens if Jobs leaves Apple altogether?"
Drum roll, please
Apple has had great success by selling consumers products they simply "cannot live without," and the numbers reflect that ... for now. Tim Cook has shown he can take over Jobs' day-to-day operations, but Jobs is still the man behind the ideas. There's also continued talk of Jonathan Ive's design influence within the company, and the accolades behind his work certainly seem warranted. He's been a principal design influence behind every recent major hit Apple has produced. Then there's also Philip Schiller, whose marketing savvy is widely praised throughout the tech world.
However, even with such a deep bench of talented executives, Steve Jobs plays the driving "visionary" role while a triumvirate of leaders excel in their own unique strengths. Who is going to push new ideas if Jobs isn't around? If Apple loses its key asset, will it also lose its ability to reinvent technology? Can other leaders in the company work as well together without Jobs' overarching direction? These questions can only be answered with time.