Apple, Now What?

Apple, Now What?

Steve Jobs’ death leaves Apple without its founding visionary, a blow unlikely to affect Apple’s short-term success but one that challenge the company as it continues to fend off rivals.

Jobs stepped down and ceded the CEO post to longtime deputy Tim Cook in August, leaving his company to execute a five-year product road map that may set Apple up for success at least during the foreseeable future.

Jobs originally stayed on in the capacity of chairman to continue consulting with the company, but with his passing, that post is now empty, bringing up questions on the company’s long-term ability to stay innovative.

Thanks to Jobs’ leadership, the company is unlikely to lose momentum anytime soon. It remains the wealthiest tech business in the world, with iPhone, iPad and iPod sales continuing to climb despite increased competition from Android rivals.

Apple’s iTunes and App Store see billions of dollars in revenue, even earning the company a world record for most popular app marketplace and most mobile gaming sales. The second quarter this year was the company’s best-ever, with a bright outlook if the new iPhone 4S performs well during the holiday season.

Apple looks to continue this upward momentum under CEO Tim Cook and his team, who aim to keep Jobs’ vision alive in his absence.

“Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple,” Cook assured his employees in an email.

Working with Cook is designer Jonathon Ive, credited with helping design the iPod and iPad, which remain the top sellers in their field.

Ive, along with Cook and other long-time members of Apple’s team, faces the difficult task of preserving Jobs’ core principles while remaining flexible enough to change as the future demands.

Jobs’ loss may make it hard for his team to walk the line between preserving his legacy and continuing to innovate, but increased competition in the mobile market will likely force them to tackle the task. Companies that lose their founders risk attempting to follow their ideologies too rigidly rather than forging ahead, a mistake Apple cannot afford to make in the fast-paced, highly competitive tech industry.

Android competitors like Samsung, HTC and Motorola now claim 40 percent of the smartphone market share in the U.S. Samsung especially poses a threat to the Cupertino, Calif.-based company, selling 19 million units to Apple’s 20.3 million during the second quarter.

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire also aims to take on Apple’s iPad, boasting a souped-up version of Android and access to Amazon’s competing cloud storage and online app service.

Microsoft too, although claims only a sliver of the smartphone market to date, may rise to challenge Apple if its partnership with Nokia pan out. The Redmond, Wash.-based company’s Windows Phone software is set to debut on Nokia’s handsets, which still have a wide reach globally and may revolutionize the lower-end market.

Apple faces competition on all sides, but the company stands to do well if it follows in Jobs’ footsteps and continues to churn out profitable, innovative products even after its five-year plan expires.

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