Does Apple need Steve Jobs at the helm? Strictly speaking, no. When Jobs left the company for a few months in 2004 after his cancer surgery, Apple COO Tim Cook ran Apple without a hitch.
If Jobs were to step down, Apple would still have a long list of talented officers to keep the brand alive. Jonathan Ive, SVP for industrial design, would keep designing amazing products and Head of retail Ron Johnson would keep the retail stores flourishing.
But one thing to consider is how Jobs has a direct hand in each and every part of the company. I've heard credible rumours that Jobs picks out batches of stone flooring for Apple Stores and individually approves the direction that new products take, putting his fingerprints on everything Apple does. The iPhone, the iPod and the iTunes store all have Jobs' signature touch.
Does Apple need Jobs? No. Would it be the same company without him? Not by a long shot.
I was in the room in August 1997 when Steve Jobs triumphantly returned to the Macworld Expo in Boston. See the video here:
It was amazing and since then just about every presentation Jobs makes has continued to impress. He is a gifted speaker and his famed "reality distortion field" generates many millions in free revenue for the company.
His appearances at Macworld and WWDC are get massive media coverage for what, at any other company, would be mundane product introductions.
This is what Steve Jobs does for Apple. Jobs singlehandedly generates buzz for everything Apple does. Ive is a great guy and does well in interviews, but he lacks the infectious charisma of Steve Jobs when introducing a new product.
Phil Schiller, head of product marketing for Apple, is a frequent assistant to Steve Jobs in his presentations, but even he does not present with the same energy Jobs does.
Try watching Scott Forstall, VP in charge of iPhone, talk to developers about the iPhone SDK in this March 6 presentation. It's downright painful. This is what Apple could be post Jobs. A company that awkwardly rolls out products with Steve Jobs wannabes.
Sure, Apple would still have great products and a great management team and a great retail strategy - but Jobs is the glue that holds it all together. He is the heart and soul of the company.
Would Apple survive without Jobs? Sure, its not going anywhere. Would its prospects glow like the launch of the iMac or iPhone? Not a chance.
Take it from an Apple fan. You don't want to see this company without its fearless leader.
Apple's stock performance since Steve Jobs returned (includes recent downturn): Up almost 1,800 per cent.