Last night, Steven P. Jobs, the iconic co-founder, chairman, and until recently, chief executive officer of Apple Inc. (AAPL) passed away. He was 56 years old. Mr. Jobs had fought a long, courageous battle with pancreatic cancer and had received a liver transplant a few years ago. He had taken several leaves of absence due to his health, but stepped down from his role as CEO in August, handing over the position to long-time deputy and chief operating officer, Tim Cook.

Mr. Jobs will be remembered as a visionary pioneer of the personal-computer industry and the man who made technology sexy. After separating from the company he co-founded, Mr. Jobs returned in 1997 and was instrumental in creating the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. These devices not only brought Apple from a niche computer company to a consumer electronics juggernaut, they fundamentally changed the music, telecommunications, and computer industries. Mr. Jobs had a keen eye for design and an uncanny ability to know what consumers wanted. His marketing and retailing prowess were also legendary, and Apple was one of the first technology companies to open its own, dedicated retail stores.

Mr. Jobs’ passing came just one day after Mr. Cook unveiled Apple’s newest phone, iPhone 4S, to an underwhelming response. While some investors question Mr. Cook's ability to maintain Apple's winning ways in a more challenging business climate, we have high hopes for his tenure. True, Mr. Cook may lack the star power and possibly the visionary instincts of Mr. Jobs. But the company, we believe, is currently so well positioned (product roadmaps extend far into the future) that this passing of the baton should have relatively little impact on its financial performance, at least not for a number of years. Indeed, we have every reason to believe that Apple will continue to gain significant market share in the booming mobile Internet and traditional computing spaces as we head toward mid-decade.

About the Company: Apple Inc. is one of the world's largest makers of personal computers and peripherals and consumer products, such as the iPod digital music player, the iPad tablet, and the iPhone smartphone, for sale primarily to the business, creative, education, government, and consumer markets. It also sells operating systems, utilities, languages, developer tools, and database software. As of September 25, 2010, Apple operated 317 retail outlets, including 233 stores in the United States and 84 overseas.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.