And that suggests two things:
First, that the market was expecting this news (and was obviously wise to be expecting it, given Steve's medical leave and health condition).
Second, the market thinks Apple will do just fine without Steve. And I think the market's right about the latter, at least over the next couple of years.
Steve Jobs' contribution to Apple cannot be overstated. Steve singlehandedly resurrected the company after it had been run into the ground by idiots and then left for dead. In about 15 short years, Steve led Apple from tech-industry roadkill to the most valuable company in the world.
Under Steve's leadership, Apple has produced products that are as beautiful and revolutionary as they are coveted and beloved. It is likely that the world will never again witness such an amazing and inspiring performance by a founder and chief executive officer of a company. So, losing Steve is obviously a tremendous blow to Apple.
That said, Steve's departure comes at a good time.
Thanks to Steve's vision, Apple has created two massive new product categories out of thin air: iPhones and iPads. These products did not exist 6 years ago--at any company--and now they are much bigger than Apple's legacy PC business.
These two products are also very early in their life-cycles in terms of global market penetration. This means that Apple should be able to drive enormous growth in both categories for years without a revolutionary new vision. The company just needs to stay one step ahead of the competition and maintain its obsessive focus on user experience and quality. And the latter now appears to be deeply baked into Apple's DNA.
Apple has also pulled off one of the hardest and most valuable tricks in technology: It has created a "closed system," or platform, that provides customers and developers with a major incentive to continue using Apple products.
Designing closed systems is risky and difficult--it is easy to get outflanked by more ubiquitous platforms, the way Apple was outflanked by Microsoft in the 1990s.
But as Microsoft and others have demonstrated in the past--and as Apple is demonstrating now--once you own the dominant platform, your market power is extraordinary.
With an installed base of hundreds of millions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, and with so much of the world coalescing around the Apple platform, Apple is in an extremely strong competitive position.
Apple also has a management team that is used to running the company without Steve around. Tim Cook has already demonstrated that he can lead Apple day-to-day, and it is likely that Steve has been grooming him to take over as CEO. There will no doubt be power struggles in the wake of Steve's departure--there always are--but Apple is in much better shape to handle Steve's departure than it would have been two years ago.
In short, Apple is now a diversified, global company with three mega-hit products: iPhones, iPads, and Macs. iPhones and iPads are still early in their adoption curves, and Macs still have only a small slice of global PC market share. And the Apple platform--iOS and iTunes--ties all these products together, providing an incentive for customers to standardize around Apple.
So even if Apple never develops another new product category, it should have years of strong growth ahead of it.
And if, by now, enough of Steve Jobs has been transferred to the DNA of the company, even some of his "vision" can be maintained.
Eventually, if Apple is to continue to revolutionize the world the way it has over the last 15 years, the company will need another visionary. Perhaps Tim Cook can grow into that role. Or perhaps Apple has another quiet genius waiting in the wings. But the company has time to find this person.
Again, it's impossible to overstate the value of Steve Jobs to Apple, and losing him is a huge blow to the company and community.
But Steve has done such an amazing job over the past 15 years that--for several years anyway--the company should be fine without him.