How Far Should Apple Fall in a Post-Jobs World?

Includes: AAPL
by: Dana Blankenhorn

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) waited until Wednesday evening to announce that co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs is “retiring,” to be replaced by COO Tim Cook.

Retiring is a polite term. Don't expect a long retirement. Mr. Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. The five-year survival rate of that is 4%. The diagnosis was 7 years ago.

We all knew this day was coming, especially Jobs. He has been in a special hurry since the diagnosis, not so much to make money for himself, but to push Apple Inc. into the dominant position it now enjoys, and to free Pixar to become the dominant animation studio of our time.

He has worked wonders, and done well.

A close friend of mine retired in 2002, due to Parkinson's, and was sent many best wishes by friends he's impacted, saying “go to your rest.” He read those notes to me a few weeks ago. Here's a prayer that Jobs has that much luck.

But regardless, Elvis has left the building, and the question now is how far Apple will fall, and how fast.

My guess is to expect a 10% haircut, then some bargain-hunting, which means an opening of $315 and a close of maybe $325. Then a slow drift, and a long argument between those who believe the company can't live without Jobs' “reality distortion field” and those who prefer to look at fundamentals.

Personally, I look at what has happened to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) since Bill Gates left the building, or what happened to IBM (NYSE:IBM) after Tom Watson Jr. retired, or what has happened to HP (NYSE:HPQ) since Bill and Dave passed, and I worry. Tech companies are absolute monarchies, and the best monarch wins. The best monarch has a firm vision for his company and is ruthless in pursuit of that vision. And the vision is constantly changing, because technology constantly changes.

So while Apple may have great earnings this year, and next year, and for some years after that, it will never be the same. Technology won't. But I also know this. There will be other entrepreneurs of vision to come, other tech wizards who will attain the power to be, and do, amazing things.

Because they'll have the power of all that computing power created since Jobs and Wozniak were first playing around at the Homebrew Computer Club, almost 40 years ago.

Change will continue to accelerate. And that's the very best valedictory Steve Jobs, or my generation (I was born in the same year, 1955) could have. See this 2009 article -- figured you should have my bonafides for writing this.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.