Give Steve Jobs credit: while nobody can possibly know how Apple will fare without its co-founder and Chairman, the company has a qualified CEO and management team. In Silicon Valley these days, that's a major difference.
Jobs, who died Wednesday at 56, had been ailing for years with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. During medical leaves he received a new liver and cancer treatments. Each time, he designated Tim Cook, now 50, as acting CEO. When he finally resigned Aug. 24, he directed Cook be elected in his place.
Cook, a professional with an MBA from Duke, is an experienced executive with experience at places like IBM and Compaq Computer, an expert in supply chain management, something tremendously important now that Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., basically sources everything from Asia.
Cook, who stands to reap as much as $390 million from the transition, has made a few tweaks but basically, the Jobs-approved team is in place. On Tuesday, under what the world now understands was tremendous pressure due to Jobs' condition, that team skillfully handled the introduction of the iPhone 4S.
Compare that to some of Apple's Silicon Valley neighbors. Last month saw the sudden firing by telephone of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and then the ouster of Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker. Both companies, one smaller, the other larger, are in transition.
Yahoo, once one of the hottest Internet properties, lacks a CEO. A search is being conducted. Allen & Co. has been hired to advise on strategic alternatives. Investment bankers cite all kinds of suitors for the whole company or parts of it, from Russia's Digital Sky Technologies to Microsoft to Silver Lake Partners or China's Alibaba Group.
HP, meanwhile, failed once again to promote from within and instead ousted Apotheker and replaced him with an outsider, Meg Whitman, a fairly new director and former CEO of eBay. She has no computer experience, although few doubt her business acumen.
Look at the differences: Apple's market capitalization is now $350.7 billion, making it many days the most valuable company in America. Hewlett-Packard's market value is only $47.4 billion and Yahoo's $20.1 billion.
After the Bartz firing, various lawyers expert in corporate governance, including the managing partner of one of the top 10 U.S. law firms, told IBTimes they were shocked by the lack of preparation by Yahoo. Later in September, the same concerns were expressed about HP, which had seamlessly passed on from the founders to two successive insiders who did well and then foundered under outsiders.
This is not to say that Cook and his subordinates will have the charisma and magic of Steve Jobs. That would be impossible. The man was unique, an inventor, an evangelist and an educator who broke molds.
In a way, there's irony that Jobs served also as a director of Walt Disney Co., where he was the largest individual shareholder due to its purchase of Pixar. Disney foundered after Walt Disney died and has never regained the magic it had under its charismatic and similarly creative autocratic founder.
Apple's Web site immediately posted a picture of a healthy Jobs after he died.
There's little assurance the company will be the same in 10 years, despite the direction he took it in, because technology changes too fast and disruptive technologies could change it. Jobs himself disrupted the PC industry, the music industry, the online industry and, profoundly, the telecommunications industry.
What may be learned in the weeks after his death is whether or not Jobs left a kind of CEO will to Cook and the team, setting out goals for 2 and 5 and 9 years from now. It is not inconceivable because Jobs knew what was going to happen to him and he had witnessed what happened to so many other great companies.
Most likely, Apple shares will rally Thursday in sympathy to one of the greatest technology pioneers. They rose 1.5 percent Wednesday to $378.25 before news of Jobs' death was announced. Their all-time high of $422.86 was set only last quarter.