Jan. 17, 2011 at 1:58 PM ET
You'll have your iPhone 5, your iPad 2 and other Apple products that are on their way this year — still coming on time, and for next year, too, even with Steve Jobs' medical leave of absence, tech experts said Monday.
"You gotta remember that Apple puts products in the pipeline years in advance of when they come out," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies technology consulting, who is familiar with Apple’s operations.
"For example, the iPad itself was conceived in 2004, and the first iteration ironically was the iPhone (in 2007), since Jobs felt he could deliver the package in a smaller" iteration first.
Michael Gartenberg, longtime technology consultant and a partner with the Altimeter Group, echoed Bajarin's comments.
"Any products Apple is planning to increase in the foreseeable future have all been under development for many, many months, and I would expect they would continue to launch without any problems," he said. "Everything will go as planned; there is no reason to think otherwise.
"If you’re a customer, you're looking at teams and teams of effort in marketing and design, all of which goes beyond Steve …When it comes to things of strategic importance, he’s still involved, even though he’s taking his leave of absence, and giving up the day-to-day, so to speak."
At this point Apple, Gartenberg said, "is larger than any one individual — even if that individual is Steve Jobs. The last time (in 2009), he time took medical leave, Tim Cook (COO) took acting control of the company, and the company not only survived, but thrived during that period."
Bajarin says that Jobs has "developed an incredibly strong management team, most of whom have been with him for 10 years, who understand his vision, his creative genius, and the direction that he wants to take Apple."
Should something happen to Jobs, he has created a "model that Walt Disney gave us," Bajarin said. "Disney died relatively young, but what Disney did before he died was to create an incredible vision and creative team and management who fully understood his vision of the future. Disney didn't suffer at all — it had some ups and downs, but ultimately it fulfilled Walt's dreams.
"To some degree, there are similarities with Jobs, in that he's a very strong visionary with a lot of creative genius, and has surrounded himself with people who are creative geniuses as well as brilliant technicians."
Technology consultant Rob Enderle, often an Apple critic, disagrees. He says Jobs' "influence is at the heart of everything from design to product announcement for Apple.
"You can’t easily separate the company from the man or the man from the company. This makes his departure increasingly painful the longer he is away because more and more of what made Apple successful will be less and less evident. Initially the problem will be a lack of high-level excitement at new product launches, but the products will still have Steve’s fingerprints on them.
"Eventually even these fingerprints will be gone and the company will become more like most consumer electronics companies with growing lines of increasingly less-interesting products. The most noticeable moment will likely be when Apple tries to launch its next big thing in a few years. The iPod, iPhone, iPad amazing line of successes may well end with the iPad."
Bajarin disagrees. "Short term, in terms of products, I see no impact," he said. "Long term, should Steve not be able to come back in full capacity, I see this team he has created being able to carry the company forward" in terms of product innovation.
Avi Greengart, consumer devices research director for Current Analysis, said "as long as Steve is still CEO — even if he is not involved as heavily on a day-to-day basis — there should be no obvious changes to Apple’s products or strategy. The Apple management team is seasoned and has absorbed Steve’s approach to product development and attention to detail. I expect Apple to continue to innovate and make bold moves into new markets — or re-energizing existing markets, which is often Apple’s approach as well."
However, Greengart said, "Jobs’ track record has been exceptional over the past 10 years, so when he leaves permanently —hopefully many years off when he’s healthy and simply ready to retire — even if his team asks ‘WWJD’ (What Would Jobs Do?) before making decisions, it will be tough to match his success. Of course, it will be tough even for Jobs himself to continue matching his recent success."