While investors have twitched at news of Steve Jobs' resignation as Apple's CEO this morning, it's an overdue move that clears the way for a well-earned retirement and the destruction of the myth that Jobs is some kind of Atlas, holding aloft the world's most prestigious computing firm on his increasing frail shoulders.
Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976, and is, without question, one of computing's true pioneers. He was among the first to see the potential of the mouse-driven PC user-interface - a revelation that led to the creation of the Macintosh - and has overseen a period of growth in recent years that has left Apple with more standing funds than the US government.
Jobs confirmed his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2004. He received a liver transplant in 2009, at which time Apple endured heavy speculation that Jobs could die: COO Tim Cook, a strict "doer" type, replaced him as the day-to-day operator for the firm over the surgery period, and will now succeed Jobs as CEO.
This is a knee-jerk reaction: Apple's fortune will not falter alongside Jobs health. Many major agencies are maintaining their "outperform" ratings. Jobs' resignation is no shock and, as the senior money-men are well aware, his leaving will not impact current success in the short- to mid-term.
The transition away from Jobs as Apple's figurehead was inevitable, and has been expertly managed. His standing aside is a necessity, and comes at a time of perfect corporate strength.
Apple is unbelievably solid. The company has sold more than 25 million iPads since the groundbreaking computer launched in 2010, with over 9 million moved in the June 30 quarter alone. iPhone, too, is clearly now an unmovable part of the tech landscape, with over 20 million sold last quarter, a three-month period in which Jobs was obviously planning his exit.
Apple's Q3 margin was up over 40%, leaving a profit of $7.31 billion. Steve Jobs was not personally responsible for that success, and his leaving will not affect the possibility of you or I buying Apple products in the coming years.
The market will try to make everyone believe otherwise in the coming days. Jobs is a visionary, and his appearance at various Apple press showcases is always seen as a mark of the success of the event. That Jobs would not walk out onto stage to unveil the next innovation in hardware, or software, or telephony, has been seen by a hysterical believer contingent as a defining factor in whether or not a constant stream of initiatives can succeed.
This is, of course, nonsense. It's time to accept reality: Apple is more than one man.
While Jobs has positioned the company away from the old stalwart of desktop computing - Mac sales themselves have levelled in the last two quarters - Cook has been in training for this moment for years.
And it's not as if Jobs is even leaving Apple: he's been instantly elected chairman of the board. The WSJ's Walt Mossberg said last night that Apple sources had told him Jobs will be an "active" chairman, and will still be involved in product design.
The question worrying investors is one of growth. Can Cook maintain the stunning growth Apple has enjoyed recently, or will we see Apple slip back to also-ran status?
If anyone can lead Apple under the ever-present glare of Steve Jobs, it's Tim Cook. The 50 year-old has been at Apple for 13 years, and has stepped into Jobs' shoes as interim CEO numerous times during Jobs' struggles with cancer.
Said Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank last night: "We believe Cook is a highly capable executive and deeply familiar with Apple's business plans, product roadmaps and operations."
Alistair Fullerton, Global Head of Strategy at IND-X Securities, added: "He knows the mentality, he knows how Apple runs. He knows their vision, their goals. So I think fundamentally there's not going to be a huge structural change."
Stop panicking. The Apple will grow. And Steve Jobs, finally, will be able to step back from the demands of coal-face management of one of the world's most successful companies, and see to his health. Given such a sparkling career, it's about time.Suggest a correction