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Apple: With and After Steve Jobs

Stocks in this article: AAPL DIS

This commentary originally appeared on Real Money Pro on Sept. 6 at 9:55 a.m. EDT.

My friend/buddy/pal Barry Ritholtz writes an insightful weekly investment/economic column in The Washington Post.

Barry's latest column (from Sept. 3) provides a particularly interesting discussion of how Apple (AAPL) has decimated most of its competition.

I am relatively uninformed with regard to the technology sector. My insights into the sector are not particularly unique or value-added, so I rarely chime in about things of an information technology kind. But Barry's column got me to thinking about Apple's shares, and I wanted to share my general impression (as a layperson) on the company's dependency on Steve Jobs.

It is clear that Steve Jobs is in very poor health and concerns abound about the future of Apple without him, especially after his recent resignation as CEO of the company.

For anyone worrying about Apple's future without Jobs, one need only look at Disney (DIS) and how it has fared without its brilliant, creative, driven, perfectionist leader and founder.

Disney (of which Steven Paul Jobs is a board member and the majority shareholder) was also started on a shoestring. The company was built on the genius of its creator, Walt Elias Disney, defied all predictions of its demise and rose again from near-bankruptcy to dominate without peer. Disney inspired a slew of third-rate imitators that never understood the roots of its success, and, most significantly in this comparison, the company has continued to prosper (and, in fact, has risen to new heights) after the loss of its founder. Under the guidance of several successors who shared Walt Disney's philosophy and understood the importance of the business's unique culture, the company recruited the best and most creative minds to maintain integrity.

Moreover, unlike Walt Disney, Steve Jobs is (for the time being) still around, serving as Apple's Chairman of the Board and continuing to guide, motivate, and drive the company -- very similar to how Roy Disney did after his brother's death.

And, don't forget that Pixar, which is, essentially, the spiritual combination of the two firms and their founders, has the same brilliance, creativity, and unparalleled success of both Apple and Disney without the benefit of either Jobs or Walt Disney's involvement -- only their inspiration.

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