Thursday, January 15, 2009

Steve Jobs and the Problem with Heirless Kings

Steve Jobs revealed a tiny bit more of his medical woes yesterday, saying that it's more complex than a hormone imbalance, and that he'll leave Apple temporarily for the next six months. I don't like when people are sick, so I hope he recovers to full health - regardless of whether his leave will become a retirement or not. My guess is that he will retire soon, and the next six months will be full of what Apple should have done in the previous ten years: Groom a successor. Unfortunately this will happen while the successor is on the job, stating the case for succession.

Apple shares (AAPL, which I own) will tumble later today. It's obvious. Apple (in the OS X and iTunes/iPod era) did a lot of things right because they rehired Jobs. Unfortunately, it seems they put all their apples in a basket named Steve Jobs. And that's the problem with kings-without-heirs-apparent. Co-founder Steve Wozniak is close to being as authentic Apple-wise as Jobs, but he hasn't been a higher-up insider in decades. At least Microsoft had Gates and Ballmer, even before Gates left his full-time post as CEO and handed it to Ballmer. At least Google has Dr. Schmidt and the two inventors/co-presidents. Apple? No such strategery.

In any case, I just might be loading up on Apple tomorrow. In this economy, I think it's good to go long in this market. The real bet, however, is having faith that the market itself will survive this economy.

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