An Apple question too early to answer: Will Jobs' vision remain?

Summary:It's too early to wonder whether Jobs' vision and DNA carries forward at Apple, but the questions are starting to be asked and they will get louder as the years go on.

While the tech industry mourns, Apple begins its first day in the post Steve Jobs era. Perhaps it's too early to wonder whether Jobs' vision and DNA carries forward at Apple, but the questions are starting to be asked and they will get louder as the years go on.

Those answers may not come for decades.

More: Steve Jobs' big lesson: 'Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish' | Tim Cook's email to employees on Jobs passing | Steve Jobs dies at 56 (roundup)

As noted previously, Jobs has set Apple's roadmap with CEO Tim Cook and key lieutenants for years to come. That roadmap included the launch of the iPhone 4S, a product launch that will take on a different meaning since Jobs passed at 56. Cook said:

Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

Wall Street will eventually calculate what the loss of Jobs meant, but not necessarily today. Analysts’ reaction sounded as stunned as Apple customers and the industry.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note:

Jobs inspired not only the many Apple products that created new categories and changed the way people live, work and play, but he inspired other technology leaders to do the same. All the while, Jobs was developing perhaps his greatest accomplishment, Apple itself. We believe that Jobs' legacy includes his many great inventions as well as those people who now lead Apple and will carry on his way of creating the future.

We believe Jobs' final act as CEO was another of his many great accomplishments. Cook is capable of running Apple, but his rare combination of extreme humility and insatiable motivation make him uniquely suited to continue Jobs' work as CEO and carry on his vision with a peerless executive team. While there may be concerns among investors as to whether or not Cook can continue Jobs' streak of innovation, we believe there is no better candidate to lead the company Jobs co-founded.

Memorial for Steve Jobs at Apple Store in SF (photos)

Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes kept the same tone. Reitzes said:

We were able to observe Steve’s unmatched passion for his company and his inventions for several years at product launches. However, we also note how thoughtful he was to carefully mentor and leave his company in the capable hands of Cook and others. We believe Apple's innovation and product momentum can continue.

Other analysts also argued that Cook is quite capable.

Wedbush analyst Scott Sutherland said in a research note:

We believe no other ecosystem comes close to the ease of use as Apple’s, which will continue to appeal to a large percentage of the masses. With only 228 operators distributing the iPhone and only 68 countries for the iPad, we believe there remain tremendous global expansion opportunities for Apple. In comparison, we believe RIM and Nokia distribute through ~600 operators. We believe Mr. Cook’s logistics capability will be key as Apple expands globally, furthering the company’s strong growth trajectory for years to come.

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said:

Our simple answer is that Apple is his legacy just like Disney is Walt Disney’s and GE for Thomas Edison. It is the culture of innovation, thinking different, risk taking, and execution that will live on. In our view, the challenge and opportunity for Apple is to maintain this culture. The good news is that Steve has put a strong team in place to execute with Tim Cook, Jonathan Ive, Eddy Cue, Scott Forstall, Phil Schiller, Peter Oppenheimer, Bob Mansfield, to name a few.

Similar themes will emerge from Wall Street today. But rest assured the questions about Apple will be asked again. In fact, there were questions about Apple's mojo right after the iPhone 4S launch. They will return.

Time will tell if Jobs' greatest feat was creating an enduring legacy at Apple.

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Topics: Apple, CXO, Emerging Tech, IT Employment

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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