Going Steve-less

It's official: Steve Jobs is taking a six-month leave from Apple to fight some serious health problems. Cringely speculates on what life without Steve would be like.

The news that Steve Jobs is stepping down as Apple CEO, however temporarily, gives an opportunity to think about what life would be like without Jobs.

No Steve in that Los Altos garage in 1976, no Apple computer. Wozniak alone couldn't have pulled it off.

If Jobs had not come back to rescue Apple in 1997, I sincerely believe there wouldn't be an Apple today. Its hardware operations would have been acquired and slowly subsumed by someone like Sun. The Mac OS would live on in cheap desktops, if it survived at all. More likely though is that it would have been squashed.

No iPods. We'd be forced to use whatever music player Creative or Microsoft came up with -- and it wouldn't be nearly as nimble as the Zune, which does its best to ape the iPod.

No iTunes. The record labels would eventually come up with some onerous, kludgy, unworkable system for buying music online (or they'd hire Microsoft to do it) that would drive even more people onto P2P networks. (Think Sony Connect.) And the TV and movie studios still wouldn't be close to distributing their wares over the wires.

No iPhone, certainly, and no iPhone wannabes flooding the market like there are now. It would be BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile, or bust.

I like to give Jobs as hard a time as the next guy -- OK, maybe the next 700 guys -- but I'm not ready for him to go. Despite the bluster, the arrogance, the Rushmore-sized ego, and the awful fawning that follows him from his army of spittle-licking lackeys, Jobs is a one-of-a-kind corporate leader who will be sorely missed. He gets what people want in a way no other tech CEOs do.

So I'm rooting for him to make yet another triumphant return in six months. Because with Gates gone, Ellison out of the public eye, and Jobs out of commission, who would be left for me to make fun of?

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