Steve Jobs' Death Is 'Setback for Humankind'

Updated from Oct. 5 with comment from portfolio manager Herb Chen.

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Steve Jobs joins Thomas Edison, the inventor of the motion-picture camera and the lightbulb, and Henry Ford, who pioneered the modern assembly line at his namesake car company, as America's greatest industrialists who disrupted technology to make a fortune against all odds.

Jobs, the co-founder and former chief executive officer of Apple ( AAPL) who died Wednesday at the age of 56, will be remembered as a technology and business outsider who connected most intimately with his company's customers. Along the way, music fans gratefully bypassed record companies with Apple's iTunes music service, millions of mobile-phone users upgraded to the sleek iPhone smartphone and many millions more considered replacing their laptops with the breakthrough iPad tablet.

Steve Jobs

The tech guru, who at age 12 called Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) co-founder William Hewlett about some parts for a frequency counter he was trying to put together, rebuilt a company whose market value exceeded Exxon Mobil's ( XOM) earlier in the year and prompted strategy changes at behemoths including Microsoft ( MSFT), IBM ( IBM) and even Hewlett-Packard.

Jobs battled pancreatic cancer over the past eight years, and even though many feared for his life after he stepped down from Apple's helm earlier this year, the news of his passing came as a shock -- it came one day after the company's launch of the new iPhone in which new CEO Tim Cook hosted a presentation for more than 100,000 people.

"With Steve Jobs, the way he was and what he overcame, if there was any guy who could beat cancer, it was him," says Channing Smith, manager of the Capital Advisors Growth Fund ( CIAOX). "The diagnosis for pancreatic cancer isn't good, and he survived a long time. You knew at some point he would pass, but you just weren't ready for it."

Smith, whose fund counts Apple as one of its largest holdings, said Jobs' death wasn't only a loss for Apple but also an "enormous setback for the world."

"We lost one of the greatest innovators of all time," he said. "It's a setback for Apple, but it's really a setback for humankind. He'll be greatly missed."

It may be hard for some touched by Jobs' innovation to put into words what his life and passing has meant to them, but Smith boils it down to Jobs' legacy.

"Jobs was an icon," Smith says. "He changed the way the world communicates. He was the king of everything digital. He's the one who's responsible for the way we consume media today. His impact and what he brought to the human race should be ranked up there with Edison."

Herb Chen, portfolio manager of the Huntington Growth Fund ( HGWIX), called the news of Jobs' passing "so sad." Apple is the largest holding in Chen's $120 million fund.

"Steve Jobs will be known as one of the greatest innovators," Chen wrote in an email to TheStreet. "We will look back years from now and truly see how he changed the way we live today and years to come. We are so fortunate to live during his lifetime."

For investors in Apple, it's hard to put into perspective their investment in the iconic company, given that Jobs transcended the investment market and even the business world in many ways. As CEO, the college dropout oversaw a share-price increase of 5,000% in the past 10 years alone.

"There's going to be a negative reaction," Smith says. "There will be volatility in the share price. There will be an impact from this news."

However, Smith urges Apple investors to consider that Jobs built not only a rapidly growing company with products that consumers lust after, but a culture of innovation that can withstand a change in leadership.

"Investors need to give the management time to prove themselves," Smith says. "This is a very talented group of people who have assisted in making Apple what it is today. The existing product line out in the market and the enhancements to come are reason enough to own the stock.

"Jobs was a great leader," Smith adds. "He built a great management team. You can't replace Steve Jobs, but the company is in a mature phase, and the company will continue to be successful. We as investors, in years to come, we're going to have to judge whether the talented team at Apple can continue his legacy of innovation."

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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