It’s hard to imagine Apple without Steve Jobs. But with Apple stronger than it has ever been, this might have been the best time for Tim Cook to step in as its new CEO. The company is in a position where it can probably take the biggest of hits—including losing its star chief executive.
Steve Jobs’ resignation shouldn’t have been a surprise. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer seven years ago, his health has deteriorated in recent years. This year wasn’t the first year he took a medical leave; the first time was back in 2009, after tech pundits noticed his conspicuous absence from Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference.
(MORE: Steve Jobs Resigns As Apple CEO, Will Become Chairman)
Apple’s stock, AAPL, has routinely suffered a beating whenever negative Jobs news has surfaced. The first time that Jobs took medical leave in 2009, Cook stepped to manage the company’s operations. The stock dipped significantly, but then rebounded by the time Jobs returned. It was pretty much the same picture earlier this year when Jobs took a second medical leave of absence. Despite the fact Jobs wasn’t running the show, Apple stocks reached its all-time high in July, trading at $403 per share. It should be no surprise that this time around, when Jobs decided to step down, Apple stock would take another beating.
That’s not to say that we should count Jobs out. He’ll still be a chairman on Apple’s board, so he’ll have his say about what direction he wants to keep the company moving in. He’s reportedly been active at Apple during his time off as CEO, and it is likely that he will continue to play a role, health permitting. There is no question that Apple can survive without Jobs, but that doesn’t mean we won’t continue to see touches of Apple’s ex-CEO.
(MORE: Who Is Tim Cook and Can He Truly Replace Steve Jobs?)
But there are a few key differences this time around: The announcement is coming just before Apple’s next iPhone launch, and there are signs that this might not be just a normal product launch. Rumors have been swirling that the iPhone might be coming to Sprint and T-Mobile. There might even be a more affordable version of the device available in the fall. It’s been a long time since the phone was launched exclusively on AT&T, and since then, it has become a tour de force. And with the possibility of the iPhone being offered on all of the major wireless carriers—if the rumors pan out—Cook would be at the helm when Apple would be poised to completely and utterly integrate itself into the mass wireless market.
Apple has been incredibly successful beyond the phone that has redefined the smartphone market—the iPad is an inescapable giant in the tablet industry. Moreover, there is no doubt that plans for the next iPad and iPhone (that is, what would be the iPad 3 and iPhone 6) are already underway, and will most likely carry a hint of Jobs’ golden touch. There has never been a better time to inherit the Apple kingdom.
Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.