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Without Steve Jobs, Questions Surround Apple

Steve Jobs' weight and appearance changed drastically from 1997 to 2010.
Despite the obvious decline in health of Apple's most important man, Steve Jobs, analysts expect the company to flourish. AFP Photo/John Mottern/Tim Mosenfelder/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After Steve Jobs announced Monday he will be taking a medical leave of absence from running Apple, Inc., many people focused closely on the wording of the announcement, which, for a company with an estimated $90 billion annual gross, can make or break fortunes.

Personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich told "The Early Show" that the important part of the announcement was the word "hope," as in, Jobs hopes to return.

"It didn't say when he's coming back," Ulirch says, adding that this is his third medical leave since 2004. "This could be an opportunity for other tech companies."

Traders on Wall Street seemed to reflect that concern, as massive trading of the company's stock saw share prices tumble 11 percent on the NYSE as of noon Tuesday.

"While Steve Jobs's health has been a constant concern for investors, given previous issues and his importance to the company, we believe this announcement will still come as a negative surprise given it is the second leave in just two years, and this time there doesn't appear to be a date set that he expects to be back," wrote Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes in a note, reports MarketWatch.

Regardless, the overall price of Apple shares is nearly double what it was this time last year, and with a planned rollout of new iPads and Mac operating systems as well as the new deal with Verizon bound to result in the sales of millions of new iPhones, many analysts expect the company to stay healthy regardless of Jobs' short term medical issues.

"Apple is in the best position of any technology company," said Apple Wall Street analyst Gene Munster on Business Insider. "The products they're going after are fundamentally targeting a shift in consumer buying."

Munster and other analysts tempered their optimism, however, because they consider Steve Jobs to be as important to Apple as Henry Ford was to Ford motors; his vision drives the company's growth. However, many appeared to have confidence in his apparent successor, Apple COO Tim Cook, as well's as Jobs' preparation for his inevitable departure.

"We have the utmost respect and awe for Steve's contributions to technology and society and put him on the same level as the greats including Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Walt Disney (just to name a few)," Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu wrote. "But we believe like his predecessors, he has successfully embedded his way of thinking and philosophy into the culture of (Apple)."

Wu credited Jonathan Ive, Apple's top design executive, for being the real driving force behind Apple's financial stability, because of the unique and compelling products he helps create.

"(Ive is) responsible for the look and feel of the stores, the products, the software. And no slight to Tim (Cook), but we think he's the most important person in the company," Wu said.

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