How Apple will survive without Steve Jobs

Steven Paul Jobs is a character who divides the tech community like no other.

But scratch beneath the surface of public opinion and you'll find that, whether people love him or hate him, most respect him, even if that respect is given begrudgingly.

The rise and fall and rise again of Steve Jobs is a well-documented tale: he having founded Apple in a garage with his college buddy Steve Wozniak, designed and built what many consider to be the first commercially viable home computer, championed the use of the mouse and the kind of graphical interface we all take for granted and eventually turned Apple into the biggest tech company on the planet.

Despite his reputation as a marketing man who has bolstered Apple's stellar performance with his legendary keynote addresses, Jobs is much more than Microsoft's Steve Ballmer: a not altogether comfortable mix of carnival barker, snake oil salesman and beleaguered, sweaty accountant.

Jobs is, in fact, a serial inventor, having had his name at the top of more than 230 awarded patents for everything from the aforementioned GUI through keyboards to staircases of all things.

He is credited by many with single-handedly saving Apple when he returned to the company, having been ousted by the the board in the 90s. Since then his management style has been described as everything from aggressive to megalomaniacal, but the man's messianic influence over the company, its products and its legion fans is undeniable.

Under Jobs' helmsmanship, the Cupertino company has transformed from being a boutique also-ran to the biggest tech company on Earth, constantly trading blows with Microsoft for the coveted top spot.

His constant insistence on innovation at all costs has raised eyebrows - as well as Apple's fortunes - with products like the iPhone, iPod and iPad permanently changing the technology landscape. And the company's unique mix of brilliant design matched with peerless ease-of-use and reassuringly expensive hardware has garnered the kind of customer loyalty which evades most, if not all, of its competitors to this day.

So strong is Steve's perceived influence over everything that Apple does that, when he announced recently that he would be taking an extended leave of absence on medical grounds, Apple's stock dropped more weight than the man himself had done following his earlier battle with pancreatic cancer and a subsequent liver transplant.

And now stock market pundits are watching Apple's progress with eager eyes, some predicting that the tide is set to turn without Jobs' firm hand on the tiller.

The simple truth of the matter is that, Apple is no longer a one-man band. Jobs has had more than a decade in which to shape the company in his own image. The Mac maker has a corporate ethos which is strongly tied to the CEOs bombastic leadership style, but that style will have filtered down through the various management layers tempering everything the company does with... let's call it 'Jobsness'.

Everyone from interim CEO Tim 'Captain' Cook through marketing maestro Phil Schiller and British industrial design wunderkind Jonathan Ive has been reading from the Book of Jobs for so long now that everyone should be on the same page, and even if Jobs doesn't return to Apple any time soon, or even ever, the man's legacy will remain.

Steve Jobs, after all, isn't Apple. But perhaps Apple has become more than a little bit Steve Jobs.