Can Apple Replace Steve Jobs?

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Can Apple (NAS: AAPL) fill the hole in its soul? Steve Jobs can never really be replaced, but it turns out Apple has been trying to infuse Jobs-esque thinking among its employees and executives since long before Jobs passed away.

The Los Angeles Times reports some freshly uncovered details on an initiative begun almost three years ago. In 2008, Apple tapped the dean of Yale's business school, Joel Podolny, to lead Apple University. Many companies have internal institutions for training, education, and general professional development, but Apple University was tasked with fostering characteristics that the late Jobs embodied and that contributed to the company's innovation and success.

Anyone who even remotely follows Apple's culture will recognize these traits immediately: accountability, attention to detail, perfectionism, simplicity, and secrecy. Jobs' ongoing battle with cancer undoubtedly made him acutely aware of his mortality, and Apple University was just another aspect of succession planning. Jobs helped craft courses designed to show how to use those traits in practice.

The seeds of the concept dated back to Jobs' Pixar days, before Disney (NYS: DIS) acquired the studio, and were partly inspired by Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard.

Although Jobs' death has left Apple without its visionary leader, the company is still in incredibly talented hands. The members of Apple's top brass have each contributed greatly to its success and deserve due credit. I've already covered Tim Cook in this regard.

Apple's marketing chief, Phil Schiller, has been behind many of Apple's successful marketing campaigns and branding strategies. Schiller is also now set to be the company's primary showman. Jobs had unmatched showmanship, but Schiller also knows how to put on a show of his own.

Jonathan Ive has been Apple's design guru for the past 15 years and is responsible for the company's irresistible industrial design. Some have even called Ive's design eye "better than Steve Jobs'." The customary "Designed by Apple in California" etching on every Apple product could also be appropriately replaced with "Designed by Jonathan Ive in California."

The man who spearheads iOS development is Scott Forstall. iOS devices now dominate Apple's unit sales, making the operating system increasingly crucial to Apple's success. Just last quarter, iPhone and iPad sales alone totaled almost 29.6 million units, compared with 3.9 million Mac units moved.

Although Jobs is gone, there were reports that he left Apple with four years of products in the pipeline. Apple University will foster the characteristics that made Jobs the best at what he did, while members of executive management will continue to pitch in their own unique talents. Apple will be just fine.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple and Walt Disney, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple and Walt Disney and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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