The media is rife with speculation about Steve Jobs health after it has been announced that he will be taking another medical leave. What is the future of the company? What effect will Steve Jobs’ absence from Apple have on its stock performance? What ails Jobs and how serious is it?

Steve Jobs has requested that his privacy be respected during his period of recuperation. Let’s hope his wishes are respected and there’s no prying into his medical records or personal family affairs by sleazy bloggers or “journalists” looking to get some kind of “scoop.”

It is not out of line, however, to speculate on Apple’s future, as many pundits and analysts are already doing. Unfortunately, Much of the speculation about the whole thing involves needless handwringing if not downright hysteria. It’s time for a few cool heads to set the record straight.

Let’s examine some of the realities and misconceptions surrounding Steve Jobs and Apple’s future.

No one can truly speculate on Steve Jobs’ health except his doctors.

Although cancer is certainly no minor matter, it is not the death sentence it once was. Steve Jobs was diagnosed with a cancerous pancreatic tumor in 2004 and had a liver transplant in 2009. This was successful, but the drugs needed to keep the body from rejecting such a transplant can cause side effects and other medical problems.

Steve Jobs is still with Apple.

Although Steve Jobs is on medical leave, he will continue on as CEO and be involved in strategic decisions with Apple.

Steve Jobs is a genius.

During his career Steve Jobs has revolutionized not one industry but several: computers with the Apple II and later the Macintosh, operating systems with NeXT, animation with Pixar, music and entertainment with Apple’s iTunes, the cell phone industry with the iPhone and now the entire world of tablet PCs with the iPad. Steve Jobs has had an amazing ability to intuitively grasp what the public wants and to see opportunities that others have missed. In addition, the strength of his personality and reputation had given him and Apple considerable heft when it comes to negotiation.

Steve Jobs’ ego has gotten in the way at times.

Certainly, much of the speculation surrounding Apple after Steve Jobs is not surprising. Steve Jobs has presented himself as Apple’s public face. He has run the keynotes, given most of the big announcements, and made Apple a very personality-driven company. Although this has built the Apple mystique over the years, it has had the downside of leading to speculation about Apple’s future after Jobs is no longer with the company. Certainly, Jobs’ ego is one of the things that led to his original ouster from Apple back in 1985.

Steve Jobs is not Apple.

Apple is a multibillion dollar, multinational corporation which, according to Wikipedia, has 46,600 full time employees and 2,800 temporary full time employees worldwide, and worldwide annual sales of $65.23 billion.

Apple is much bigger than one man. In fact, Apple continued to enjoy a wide user base and popularity during the time between Steve Jobs’ ouster and his eventual return. Although Jobs is a unique technology visionary, runs Apple in a very hands-on fashion, and is, in fact, the public face of the corporation, it would be a mistake to think that he is the only one keeping it going.

Steve’s recent health problems have not come suddenly, nor have they been a big surprise.

Steve Jobs has been suffering from health issues for a number of years now. Being the forward-thinking guy he is, Jobs has certainly not overlooked the fact that he will not be around forever. Steve Jobs knows what it takes to succeed in business and has surrounded himself with an excellent team of very talented people. He has been careful to groom Tim Cook as his right-hand man, making sure that there will be someone available to maintain operations of the company if he should ever have to leave.

Apple has an incredible management team consisting of Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Peter Oppenheimer, Phil Schiller, Jonathan Ive, Ron Johnson, Sina Tamaddon, Bertrand Serlet, Scott Forstall and Bob Mansfield. Ive, who has been with Apple since 1992, has been the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design since 1997.

Steve Jobs has been gone from Apple before.

It is easy to forget that Steve Jobs has not always been with Apple. He was ousted from the company in 1985, just one year after the introduction of the Macintosh, and did not return until 1997, over 10 years later.

During that time, Apple was not stagnant, either. The company introduced many innovative products, such as the Newton, a groundbreaking handheld computer; the PowerBook, which established the modern ergonomic layout and form factor of the laptop computer; System 7, a major advance in operating systems; the PowerPC processor, a new computing architecture using Motorola and IBM hardware; and TrueType font technology, an open standard for fonts that greatly simplified font management.

Sure, Apple has had some missteps during that time, but it would be a mistake to think that everything Steve Jobs touches has turned to gold either; the Xserve has been discontinued, the Macintosh Cube flopped and the Apple TV has yet to really take off.

Apple has an incredible momentum going with the Mac, iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone and now the iPad.

Apple enjoys millions of loyal customers and users. Apple store openings often draw crowds of thousands, some of whom wait in line for as long as a day before the opening, and some of whom even fly in from other countries for the event. The cube-shaped store on Fifth Avenue in New York drew crowds half a mile long for its grand opening; some of the visitors even took the opportunity to propose marriage at the event. Mac users have been fiercely loyal to their machines because of the ease of use of the operating system and applications and the industrial design of the devices themselves.

Mac users are intensely loyal.

The Macintosh has enjoyed a “halo effect,” as users of the iPod, iPhone and other Apple products have been inspired to try Apple’s other offerings, including its desktop computers. This means that the Mac user base has been growing over the past several years. The loyalty of Mac users has inspired the phrase “Cult of Macintosh.” Users of Macs and Apple’s other products love their devices because of Apple’s innovative industrial design, software made to be easy to use from the ground up, advanced operating system, award-winning support, compatibility with PCs and third-party hardware, ability to work with Microsoft Office and other PC files, and non-susceptibility to PC viruses.

In short, Apple has a public image, brand loyalty, reputation for innovation and a user base that would make most of the world’s biggest corporations green with envy. No matter what may happen in the future, one thing is certain: Apple’s future as a technology leader is secured.

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