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The Future of Apple May Be Looking Sour!

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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.

What do you think? Can Apple survive without Steve Jobs? Add Apple to MyWatchlist, or sound off in the comments box below!

Fool contributor Katie Spence does not own shares of any company named above. She is currently working on an anti-aging cloning device to use on Steve Jobs.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Alpha Newsletter Account, LLC owns shares of Microsoft. 

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (18) | Recommend This Article (23)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:05 PM, thedataferret wrote:

    People die every day, they also retire every day, that's a fact of life. If you think Steve Jobs is the only person with vision @ Apple you are a Fool.

    I guess that is what your doom's day scenario is all about! Play the grinch and buy the stock. Oooops that might be even more foolish!

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:13 PM, hellomojo wrote:

    Guess if depends on the timeframe when consider "if/when" Apple will sour. With or without Steve the company will continue to roll for a good 5-7 years just with the current products and coming pipeline of new stuff. 5-7 years after Steve..then we will see what they can do without him. I personally think they will be fine as they have some of the best talent across the board and a culture of trying for perfection. But either way.. I'm taking my profit on them in 2 or 3 years... long before the "souring" question will be answered.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:24 PM, xmmj wrote:

    Again - simplistic thinking.

    True, Jobs IS one of the most important CEOs in history. Yet Apple is now, more than ever, much larger than Jobs alone.

    Apple is a whole institution with design and quality built into their core. The will thrive as long as they hold onto this.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:25 PM, CluckChicken wrote:


    It is not that other people at Apple do not have vision it is that Jobs is a) one of the greatest salesman ever and b) more closely tied into the image of Apple then other company heads are. Look at MacWorld attendance and media following when Jobs is going to be there and when he is not.

    If Apple is not able to keep up the smoke and mirrors effect that Jobs has I do not think that Apple's products could stand up against the others on their own.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:32 PM, SkippyJohnJones wrote:

    And Facebook looks terrible as an investment! Mark Zuckerberg IS Facebook! What happens when he dies/retires?

    Reed Hastings is the driving force behind Netflix - what happens without him?!?

    We have never been forced to live in a world where Amazon is not run by Jeff Bezos - short the stock!

    Larry Ellison = Oracle. If he takes a vacation, the whole business collapses for a week.

    This whole line of reasoning is shallow and convenient. It is also disrespectful to the thousands of engineers, designers, and marketers whose work makes Apple what it is. Of course the company is better with Jobs than without him. Of course his eventual death or retirement will impact the the short run. But then they will report yet another disgustingly profitable quarter and analysts will have no choice but to restate their "strong buy" ratings. The company is running on rocket fuel right now, and they have a few good years regardless of who is at the helm.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:42 PM, midnightmoney wrote:

    stale tale

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:45 PM, bugnuts wrote:

    Jobs does not single-handedly create Apple products. Thousands of Apple employees do, and most have never met Jobs.

    He did, however, create a mega company with an environment that promotes creativity. Tim Cook and other senior staff members have been well-drilled into the management techniques that lead to excellence.

    Hint: It's all about setting expectations and trusting your professionals. American business has a 400-year track record of taking the entreprenurial spirit and crushing under the weight of bureaucracy.

    Key asset? Yes, of course. The most important asset? Not even remotely close.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 4:55 PM, radzewicz wrote:

    What you are not aware of is that there is a "Jobs" behind The Jobs.

    Within Apple there already are person(s) capable of filling Steve's shoes, when and if that becomes necessary.

    I don't mean Tim, who himself is quite capable, but an eager soul chomping at the bit to take on the visionary role Steve created. And, since he learned from the best, just like the son who outdoes the father, will outshine even Jobs' humongous accomplishments.

    There is more depth to Apple than is dreamed of in all your philosophies, Katie!

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 5:36 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    Timing is everything hey?

    What's your motive for wanting to Apple low til the end of this week?

    Someone sold a lot of calls?

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 5:48 PM, rocker1941 wrote:

    Let's see if I can phrase this correctly:

    Journalists use to investigate, check their sources, ask those who are considered literate for information regarding their intended target. This person who wrote this piece of crap did not look at the most recent Balance Sheet and Income Statement. Why didn't Katie due her due diligence?

    Perhaps she is not educated, and that is why she is STUPID and should not write for the Motley Fool.

    All Fools would agree with me, at least that is the information that I got out of The Motley Fool Investment Guide that I bought years ago. Katie, get a grip and do your research, otherwise people will come to the same conclusion that I have after reading this piece of pig manure.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 6:13 PM, TMFKSpence wrote:

    Dear Readers, thank you for your comments. However, a majority of you have failed to notice I say "May Be" not "Will Be". The article is for Foolish investors to consider the possible outcomes of Jobs leaving Apple. As every smart Fool knows, knowledge is money.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 6:52 PM, beechtree1 wrote:

    You have said nothing we did not already know or

    had not already read, or had not already considered. What a waste of space and of our time; I would have expected better from TMF.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 7:05 PM, Steinzo wrote:

    // Will Steve Jobs' eventual exit from Apple Inc. have an impact on the company? Absolutely. What will that impact be? We will have to wait and see. //

    It took TMF writer Katie Spence 542 words to essentially say what I just did in 27 (26, if you eliminate the superfluous "Inc."). Granted, Katie's article contained considerably more rhetoric than my brief offering, but arguably little or no more substance.

    You can draw your own inferences.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 8:17 PM, mountain8 wrote:

    Well they have to write about something, If you want to critique, submit something of your own. There are three kinds* of "News", reporting, thought pieces, and opinions. This is a thought piece. And just because you've heard it and read it a bunch times before, doesn't mean someone else has. You want to add an addenda to the article**, please do. You want to criticize, get a job as a critic.

    *I don't count the crap you find at the grocery store.

    ** That means add more information.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2011, at 11:54 PM, vaporland wrote:

    "The cemeteries are full of indispensable men."

    Charles de Gaulle

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 3:11 AM, Fairmead wrote:

    If you ever think that you are indispensable, take a walk around a graveyard.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2011, at 1:27 PM, thedataferret wrote:

    I am happy that I have not listened to the oracles regarding Steve's health and equated it to the health of the company. Long AAPL for 6 years and wished it was 10.

    Apple user since I switched from my Osborne. I may even beat Steve to the happy hunting grounds but writing a warning about his health is not news, it is not even information Miss Katie.

    it appears to be a call of "wolf" in the marketplace where Apple may be one of the greatest assets to the market.

    Will the MF readers give you 2 more chances to cry out "wolf" again??

  • Report this Comment On May 14, 2011, at 12:16 PM, skippywonder wrote:

    Will TMF continue to publish articles written by Katie Spence? Time will tell.

    The above comment is meant to illustrate that the there is an implied answer in the question. I can not defend it by saying "I never said anything about whether they would or wouldn't" because the implication of simply asking the question is that Katie Spence may not be writing for TMF very long.

    So when the author asks, "If Apple loses its key asset, will it also lose its ability to reinvent technology?" There is an implied suggestion that Apple is in trouble when they lose Jobs. To claim it's a neutral comment is wrong.

    The neutral form of the question is something like "How might losing Jobs affect Apple's ability to reinvent technology?"

    Beyond that it is a puzzling article in that it brings up a very well worn topic and fails to advance the dialogue at all. With all that is going on at Apple and in the tech space Apple occupies (cloud, tablets, 4g/no 4g, or heck even repatriation of cash and tax holidays), it seems odd to revisit this stale topic unless there is something new to add.

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