- Associated Press - Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The end of Steve Jobs‘ reign as Apple Inc. CEO doesn’t mean he is bowing out as the maestro of personal technology.

True to its tight-lipped style, Apple isn’t spelling out how actively involved Jobs will be as the company’s new chairman while he tends to his own fragile health after surviving pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant during the past seven years.

But longtime Apple watchers have no doubt that Jobs will weigh in on all key decisions and help sculpt the company’s future product lineup.

“I know enough about Steve Jobs to know that as long as he has a breath in him, he will be giving direction at Apple,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies and the dean of Apple analysts. “He is going to remain Apple’s chief visionary.”

In his Wednesday resignation letter as CEO, Jobs, 56, wrote that he planned to be “watching and contributing” to Apple’s success as chairman, a position that had long been vacant.

In a sign of his commitment, Jobs put in a full day at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters during his last full day as CEO, even though he was technically still on medical leave, said Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe.

Bajarin and other people in close contact with Apple said Jobs remained intimately involved there even as he spent 14 of the past 32 months on medical leaves of absence. During that stretch, Apple kept pumping out smash hits and became more successful than ever, with its market value swelling from $80 billion to nearly $350 billion today.

Even so, the mere specter of Apple operating without Jobs conjures unwelcome memories. After co-founding Apple in 1976 and establishing it as a technology trailblazer, Jobs was forced out in 1985. When he finally returned in 1997, the company was in danger in going bankrupt and even needed financial help from longtime nemesis Microsoft Corp. to survive.

The ongoing prosperity during Jobs‘ recent illnesses is a testament to the management team he assembled and schooled, and to his own ability to remain engaged and inspired even as he convalesces.

The Steve Jobs way is so deeply ingrained in Apple’s DNA that analysts are convinced that new CEO Tim Cook and his key subordinates no longer need to hear from Jobs every day to know what he wants.

In a Thursday letter to Apple employees, Cook stressed he won’t mess with the formula that worked so well during Jobs‘ 14-year tenure as CEO.

“I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change,” Cook wrote. “I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that.”

Cook also noted that he is “looking forward to Steve’s ongoing guidance and inspiration.”

Cook, who has run Apple during all three of Jobs‘ medical absences since 2004, will have ample help beyond his former boss. The other key players include marketing guru Phil Schiller, design chief Jonathan Ive, software mastermind Scott Forstall and the head of finance, Peter Oppenheimer.

“If you were trying to describe this group of people, it would be the dream team of executive management,” said Howe said.

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