The fortunes of Apple are inextricably linked with those of company co-founder Steve Jobs.

Jobs is legendary in his industry as an ideas man, whose vision guides not merely his company, but the technology industry. Apple's dependence on that vision means that no known succession plan exists should Jobs ever choose to leave the firm.

The Observer discusses the essential secret sauce that Jobs supplies at Apple, and speculates that his departure could severely damage the company.

The report points out a precedent for the departure of a company's spiritual leader - Microsoft's Bill Gates recently revealed plans to quit his company, but had already groomed successors, which minimised the impact on his company.

There's no equivalent successor at Apple, the report points out, "or if there is, the public hasn't seen them".

The Observer concludes: "In grown-up companies, one of the responsibilities of the CEO is to find and groom his successor. Jobs tried to do that once and got (former Pepsi CEO) John Sculley. He has given no sign of wanting to repeat the experience. In the end, the Apple board may have to do it for him. Let's hope they get it right second time around."