- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2011

Whatever happens to Apple Inc. in the post-Steve Jobs era, the legacy of its enigmatic, charismatic co-founder appears secure.

Markets appeared to take in stride the news announced Wednesday evening that the 56-year-old Mr. Jobs was ceding day-to-day control of the industry giant he co-founded 35 years ago to company Chief Operations Officer Tim Cook. The California company’s stock closed Thursday at $373.72, down a modest $2.46, on a volume of 30.9 million shares traded.

Mr. Jobs‘ resignation was “what everybody feared but also knew was inevitable sometime over the next several years,” said Regis McKenna, the pioneering technology marketer whose ad agency helped launch Apple’s Macintosh computer in 1984.

Calling Mr. Jobs a “gentle, family-loving child of the 1960s,” Mr. McKenna added, “In more than 30 years that I knew him, we never had a harsh word.”

That may have been the exception in Mr. Jobs‘ world: The departing CEO - he will remain chairman of the board - is notorious for his perfectionism, for his devotion to detail and for “micromanaging everything,” as one observer said.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif., points out that the ideas behind the Mac (and its underachieving predecessor, Lisa), the iPhone and iPad all came from other places. Mr. Jobs reportedly got the idea for the iPad while listening to Microsoft chief Bill Gates describe a similar product in a joint appearance at a technology conference.

“You could see the light going off in Steve’s eyes,” he recalled.

Amid all the industry chatter about continuing Apple’s tranquil operating style, Mr. Enderle said, the “reality-distortion field that surrounds Apple and Jobs continues. You can’t pull someone like Jobs out and not experience a change.”

He cited similar changes when visionary founders such as Walt Disney and Mr. Gates stepped away from the companies they founded.

The computer market is radically different from the last time Mr. Jobs departed Apple’s leadership - he resigned in September 1985 after a power struggle with company President John Sculley and returned to a management post in the mid-1990s.

Personal computer and smartphone ownership rates have exploded, the Internet is ubiquitous, and prices have come down dramatically. Data and applications are migrating to a digital “cloud” making it possible to work from just about anywhere on a tablet computer with a Wi-Fi connection.

Apple’s advantage has long rested on Mr. Jobs‘ obsessions for quality and perfection and the company’s streamlined structure that taps global sources for production and delivers finished goods to customers’ doors via FedEx or through one of the hundreds of signature Apple Stores worldwide.

“The company has undergone a massive transition under Tim Cook,” Mr. McKenna said. “He’s done a massive job of creating a company that really runs well. Implementation is 90 percent of perception, and I think before Tim Cook, Apple was really a disaster at logistics, in all ways.”

But Mr. Cook is not an Apple lifer: He honed his management skills during 12 years at IBM Corp., at the former Compaq Computer Corp., and as chief operating officer of the reseller division at Intelligent Electronics, a major computer distributor.

Mr. Enderle said he doubts Mr. Cook will be able to manifest the charisma Mr. Jobs has brought to Apple’s legendary product launches.

Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies, disagrees.

“The issue is great products that people want,” he said. “As long as Apple does that and Tim Cook leads helping Apple create the products people want, the charisma becomes less important.”

Jimmy Hayes, editor of Britain’s iCreate magazine, said, “Whatever happens, there is no doubt that the Apple product roadmap has been put in place so that the Jobs disciples, who have been left to run the show, can continue fulfilling the vision of clearly the most important company leader on the planet.”

Mr. McKenna summed up the Jobs legacy: “I guess the words I like to think about Steve is that he will be forever cool.”