It's hard to imagine Apple without the iconic turtleneck-clad figure of Steve Jobs at the helm. It's a future that will soon be upon us.
I've spent the last day crossing Silicon Valley, balancing my iPhone and iPad, trying to get as clear a picture as possible as to what Apple will be like under Tim Cook. And the answer is: it won't change much ... at first.
Jobs is not Apple's CEO, but he is still the chairman. And from all accounts, Steve Jobs is not the sort of man who will hold the position on a ceremonial basis. He will influence Apple's products for as long as his health will allow.
Don't forget, new iDevices do not spring up overnight. The next iPhone is virtually complete; the iPhone after that is already deep into development. Both have already been touched by the hand of Jobs. Both have already had the benefit of his input, as have countless more products in the pipeline that we don't even know about yet.
Analysts worry about what comes beyond that: The period, perhaps four or five years from now, when products conceived, designed and built without Steve Jobs appear.
But there is plenty of confidence within Apple about the team that's in place. And "team" is the key word. Tim Cook is widely known as an operations expert. I'm told part of the reason Apple's products seem ahead of the curve is that Cook is able to negotiate deals with suppliers for exclusive supply of parts well in advance. While he's known for his mastery of the supply chain, Cook does not have the same instinctive grasp of making great products that Jobs has. So responsibility will fall to Apple's senior managers: iOS chief Scott Forstall, design guru Jonathan Ive, and senior vice president Phil Schiller among others.
Can this team run Apple effectively? Well, they already are. Jobs' health problems mean that he has already had to take a step back, and that Cook has already been running the company. Insiders note that Jobs' resignation is nothing more than making the current situation official.
But whether they'll be able to replace Jobs in the long term is another story, because his personal touch runs across almost the entire company. Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley noted that Jobs has his name on over 300 patents for Apple – an unheard of number for a CEO. The question is whether his health will permit him to be nearly as hands-on as he is now.
Apple without Jobs may be the end of an era. But the end isn't quite here yet.