One of the biggest tech news stories of recent months broke early in the morning (Australian time) when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs formally announced that he was stepping down from his role as Apple’s CEO.
Jobs’ time as Apple CEO was marked by a profound change in the company; when he regained control of the company having been ousted in the mid 1980s, it was in dire straits, with most observers thinking it would be a mere matter of months before Apple was no more. With a focus on industrial design and cutting back on the number and scope of Apple’s projects at the time, Jobs was able to turn the company into what it is today. In ten short years Apple’s brought industrial design in computing to the fore, be it with integrated iMacs, the ever-popular iPods (which only celebrate a decade of existence this year) or the profound shakeup of the mobile industry that was caused by the iPhone. There’s no doubting that Apple is one of the genuine power players in the IT market, and Jobs can rightly claim a lot of that credit.
But having said that, while Jobs stepping down was news, it was neither unexpected (his illnesses are a private matter, but as a company CEO his medical leaves of absence weren’t, and his successor in the CEO role, Tim Cook, had been acting in that role for much of this year anyway) and neither will it make a huge difference to Apple’s fortunes going on. That’s partly because the CEO role is the only one Jobs is stepping down from; he’s still chairman of the Apple board, a director and an employee. He might not be signing all the pay cheques any more, but undoubtedly his influence will continue to be felt. Equally, Apple’s not a company that moves particularly quickly; it’s likely that the next couple of years worth of projects, including new iPhones and iPads are already more or less set in stone.