The death of Steve Jobs comes at a crucial period in the history of personal computing. Apple has $76 billion (Rs 373,844 crore) in the bank, but if faces challenges from seemingly every corner.
Google wants to crush the iPhone with its Android system. Netflix wants to dominate the world's living rooms, leaving iTunes behind. Facebook wants to be the window to the Internet, controlling just about everything. And now Amazon is jumping into the tablet business.
Apple comes at this battle not with Jobs, who gave up day-to-day control in August, but with the soft-spoken CEO Tim Cook, who debuted the new iPhone this week to mostly tepid reviews.
Cook will battle Google and the other challengers with Jobs's legacy stalking his every move on Wall Street, in Apple's stores, and in the hearts and minds of technology users around the world.
There were rumblings in the tech world that there wouldn't have been such a tepid response to the new iPhone if Jobs, not Cook, had been onstage.
To be fair, Apple maps out its projects years in advance, so Jobs was involved with this announcement and probably many to come.
Where Jobs was a visionary, Cook is an operations guru. Nobody is expecting Cook to stand on a stage any time soon and articulate computing's future.
Apple's defenders will say Cook has a deep and talented executive team, with luminaries such as industrial design master Jonathan Ive. But the company recently lost its head of retail to JC Penney, and it remains to be seen whether Apple, without Jobs, will have the same power to attract other executives.
Jobs seemed to know how much he would be missed. Fortune recently reported he had set up a mini-university inside the company to teach up-and-comers how Apple thought and made decisions. But the way Apple thinks and makes decisions is really the way Jobs thinks and makes decisions. Can that be taught?
The new iPhone, dubbed the 4S, will hit stores on October 14. People will camp out for days in advance to get one.
But for Apple without Jobs, the question is: Will they line up someday for the iPhone 5?
(In Exclusive Partnership with The Washington Post)