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Steve Jobs is missed, but Apple's stronger now than a year ago, analysts say

A year after company co-founder's death, has Apple changed? Yes and no

October 5, 2012 06:46 AM ET

Computerworld - A year after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' death, the company has changed, analysts said today.

Oh, no it hasn't, said others.

There's no question that in the 12 months since Jobs' death on Oct. 5, 2011, Apple has remained a powerhouse -- some would hazard the powerhouse -- in technology.

Yesterday, Apple's share price closed at $666.80, 79% above its price one year ago today. Revenue for the second quarter -- the most recent earnings reported by Apple -- was $35 billion, up 23% from the same quarter in 2011. And in the quarter ending June 30, 2012, Apple sold a record 17 million iPads, the tablet that Jobs himself introduced in January 2010.

That was the last new product Jobs pulled out of his virtual top hat as CEO.

"Apple is different now. It's been forced to grow up as a company," said Dany Gaspar, director of digital strategy at Levick, a Washington, D.C. communications firm. "They now own the title of the world's most valuable company, but to do that they needed to grow up organizationally."

As proof of Apple's maturation, Gaspar cited current CEO Tim Cook's decision to issue dividends to stockholders, a move that Jobs had always resisted.

Cook announced the plan in March, along with a stock repurchasing program -- something else Jobs had opposed -- less than seven months after he took the reins, saying the two programs would collectively lay out $45 billion over a three-year period.

But not every expert is certain Apple -- which posted a video on its home page today honoring Jobs a year after his death -- has changed.

"The thing I struggle with the most in answering that question is, I just don't know," said Carolina Milanesi, a research analyst and vice president with Gartner who covers Apple. "It's different, but whether that comes from the fact that Jobs is not there, or a combination of Jobs' [absence] and the world being a different world today, I don't know."

She used the recent misstep by Apple over its decision to replace Google Maps with its own technology in iOS 6 as an example.

"No one can argue that Jobs got away with things Cook cannot," said Milanesi, referring to the difference between the apologies each penned after public relations disasters. "If you have this god-like persona, people just accept you, whatever you do. But Cook's apology was perfect. He said Apple is about quality and precision, he said they got it wrong. He understood that it's more important saying that than being defensive."

Two apologies five years apart -- both smart moves, public relations experts have said -- illustrate the consistency of Apple after Jobs' death. But the execution of those apologies shows a different Apple today.

Consistency is what analysts saw after reflecting on the last 12 months. They attributed that to Apple's long product development cycles and -- because of those timelines -- see evidence that the Cupertino company is still implementing ideas Jobs conceived or approved.

Apple announces Steve Jobs' passing
Apple acknowledged Steve Jobs' passing last year with his picture on the Apple.com website.

"Take the MacBook Pro with the Retina screen," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, talking about the revamped laptop sporting a high-resolution screen that Apple rolled out in June. "Everything about it is Jobs. The price is shockingly high, but at the same time it's aggressive. That's a Jobs trick.



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