First off, let me say this: I hope that Steve Jobs' health improves, and that he comes out of whatever challenges he's going through in the best of health. He's an amazing, visionary leader of a dynamic company — and he's also a person with a family. Let's all wish him well.
While famously a CEO, Steve Jobs is also, it should be known, a product strategist par excellence. He's clearly been involved, in a deep way, in the development of Apple's product ideas, product designs, business models, go-to-market strategies, and responses to competition. These are the job responsibilities of product strategists. In his (and Apple's) case, product strategy has risen to the very top of the organization.
Product strategists of two different flavors are wondering how they might be affected by his resignation as CEO (and concomitant request to become chairman):
- Product strategists who compete with Apple. Product strategists at companies like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, HP, Dell, HTC, and similar firms wonder if Steve Jobs' change in role might benefit them. They actually shouldn't wonder: His departure from the CEO spot won't benefit them — not for a very long time, at least. Apple's product development road map stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built. Jobs' departure won't affect Apple's product portfolio, quality, or competitiveness for a long time — if ever.
- Product strategists who depend on Apple. Product strategists at a wide variety of companies — in sectors like media, finance, software, retail, clothing — anyone who's created an iOS app or a Mac software program — also wonder what they should be thinking. Similarly, they simply shouldn't worry. Apple's position in consumer product markets won't be affected by Jobs' change in role today, tomorrow, or for many years. Apple's ecosystem is strong and will stay so.
Finally, a lot of our clients ask whether Tim Cook (as the new CEO) can live up to Jobs' legacy. To this, I say: I've never engaged in armchair psychoanalysis, and I don't know the man. But Apple has recruited talent in all of its major areas (technical and managerial) for a long time. While Steve Jobs will go down in eventual history as an outstanding innovator, leader, and world-changer, Apple is actually much more than its leader alone. For the immediate future, product strategists should go about their daily lives and work to find innovations that will help them compete with Apple's formidable, tech industry-leading position.