Apple fans: Company is more than Steve Jobs

By Christina Rexrode

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 24 2011 10:10 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this March 11, 2011 file photo, Apple specialist Toni Perreira gives a customer instructions on how to use the iPad 2 at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York. Apple fans and would-be customers seemed to agree that while Steve Jobs' charisma and innovative genius is one-of-a-kind, the company he built will survive without him.

Mary Altaffer, File, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Apple fans and would-be customers seemed to agree that while Steve Jobs' charisma and innovative genius is one-of-a-kind, the company he built will survive without him.

On Wednesday night, after he resigned as CEO of the iconic gadget maker, Jobs was not the topic of conversation among shoppers, browsers or the blue-shirted employees at the Apple store on Manhattan's swanky Fifth Avenue across from Central Park.

On the display computers set up around the store, people scrolled through Facebook photos, looked up bank account balances and watched videos on YouTube. They weren't, from the looks of it, reading news stories about Jobs.

"Apple's created an identity for themselves that is well above and beyond Steve Jobs. People don't think of Steve Jobs when they think of Apple, they think of a sexy brand," said Jared Karlow, 23, who works in information technology for the financial services industry. "You could say the same thing about Microsoft. They have outlived Bill Gates."

Jobs resigned as CEO on Wednesday, saying he could no longer handle the job and would continue to play a leadership role as chairman of the board. He has been on medical leave since January. Apple's chief operating officer, Tim Cook, who has been filling in for Jobs, was named as CEO.

Karlow, 23, was shopping with his girlfriend, Maegan Tabbey, 21, on the evening that Jobs resigned. They didn't know about the news until told by a reporter. But both believe the company will be fine and that Jobs' role likely became less integral as the company grew.

"There are thousands of employees who do the work that brought Apple to where it is," Karlow said. "It's not just one man."

Added Tabbey: "My sister just bought a Mac laptop and I promise you she doesn't know who Steve Jobs is."

Apple may be known for its rabid fan base, but the company's creative genius lies in being able to attract a mass-market audience. These are the folks who may only vaguely know that Steve Jobs, the guy in the black mock turtlenecks, is the force behind the iPhone in their pocket or the iPad in their hands.

Walking out of an Apple store in Phoenix, Zanzucchi, 49, said he'd never heard of Jobs, and he didn't believe the CEO's departure would mean less innovation for the company.

"I don't know if he's the person who thought of it all," he said. "I'm sure he wasn't. I'm sure there's a host of people below him."

Unless prompted by a reporter, customers didn't seem to be discussing Jobs' departure in the Fifth Avenue Apple store. Instead, they were asking employees about the products and how much each cost. Business flowed as usual.

"He has so much charisma, I'm curious if they can keep it up because there is kind of this cult around him," said Selim Sevinc, 25, a medical student from Germany. But Sevinc said it was Apple's products — not Jobs — that influenced him to get an iPhone and switch from PCs to Macs.

"When Dell catches up, I would switch to Dell," he said. "Maybe."

In San Francisco, software engineer P.K. Kalyanraman said he was worried his Apple stock would decline in value.

"I think Steve Jobs has been a shadow figure for the last 1 ½ to 2 years now with his health problems, so I still feel like the company will function perfectly fine without Steve Jobs for at least a few more years," he said.

But, he added, "how they progress into new technology and how they keep up with the market is what we've got to look for in the new person who comes in over there."

The biggest Apple fans certainly felt Jobs' departure.

Seanmichael Rodgers, 35, was saddened. He made his way to the Fifth Avenue store after work, after reading the news on his iPad 2 while on a break.

"I just want to be close to him," he said with a laugh. He sat on the plaza in front of the store and played Words With Friends, a Scrabble-like game, on the Apple tablet computer.

When asked why he didn't invite anyone to come with him, he said, "I didn't really think it was a moment to share."

Besides being an Apple fan, he also worked at the company's Fifth Avenue store four years ago, for six months. He now designs closets in people's apartments. Rodgers said Jobs "envisioned how we can use devices to enhance our lives."

Ortutay reported from San Francisco. AP Business Writer Joseph Pisani in New York, Associated Press writer Michelle Price in Phoenix and Associated Press writer Terence Chea in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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