Short answer: We’ve seen it before; Apple is Jobs, and without him, it runs aground.
Apple has created for itself a niche market that’s rabid about its products. These products all have a specific look and feel, a set of ergonomics that come directly from Steve’s personal stylings. When the Apple BoD kicked him out in the mid-80s, it took them right around 10 years coasting on his momentum before they were struggling with bankruptcy, and begging him to come back, which he did 2 years later, writing his own terms in the process.
When he announced his health issues in the mid-00s, my first comment was, “Well, there goes Apple.” Since then, I’ve stated on numerous occasions that I give Apple 10 years from when he dies before they’re struggling with bankruptcy again. He died in 2011, so that makes it 2021. Now admittedly, they’re doing better right now than they were at the equivalent time back in the early 90s, but part of that is also because of their recent momentum prior to his “leaving the company” this time was so much higher. They may actually make it to 2025 before struggling publicly with bankruptcy. But it will come, unless they develop a new cult of personality whose demographic largely overlaps their current one.
Why is this? Because the Steve Jobs personality cult was strong enough to overlook the problems, and often abuse, that Apple has inflicted on its users over the years. Without Jobs, however, those problems all rise to the surface and are the only things people are seeing. We’re also not seeing the visionary new “can’t-live-without-it” products coming out every 4-5 years or so; the most recent attempt was the Watch, and it was definitely something most fans could live without. Apple’s already showing quite a lot of warning signs that it’s struggling to maintain its standing, though most of them are subtle and you have to have spent some time watching for them.
So what do they do? Develop a new cult of personality, one with a strong, practical, and stylish vision for the future and for the products. Someone who can create a must-have product that few have thought possible, and can do it every 4-5 years.
And to the Apple Board: Yes, I would make myself available. (: