New York: The future of Apple without Steve Jobs at its helm is hard to fathom, with experts pointing out that executives at the technology giant will now face big tests in staying ahead of competition and achieving success without Jobs in charge.

In a surprise announcement, Apple on Thursday said Jobs has resigned as company CEO and named Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook as his successor.

Jobs will now be the chairman of Apple's board. "Few chief executives are as closely identified with a company as Steve Jobs has been with Apple. Now that he is stepping down as chief executive... it will largely be up to his deputies to make sure that the company continues to stay ahead of the competition with trend-setting products and services that impress consumers," a report in the Wall Street Journal said.

It said the executives that will now run Apple without Jobs will "face big tests of whether they can still excel in highly competitive businesses that often have small profit margins".

A daily said the Apple team will face a "far greater trial in achieving continued success without Jobs in charge".

Stanford University's Graduate School of Business professor Charles O'Reilly said in the WSJ report one will have to wait and see if Apple "can hit the next home run", asserting that if it doesn't, "they're in a bunch of bad businesses".

With a "charismatic persona" and "sharp instinct" for knowing what consumers want, Jobs is one of the most successful chief executives in corporate history, a daily said.

"The good news for Apple is that the product roadmap in this industry is pretty much in place two and three years out," the New York Times quoted Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie as saying.

"So 80 per cent to 90 per cent of what would happen in that time would be the same, even without Steve," Yoffie said.
Yoffie added that the "real challenge for Apple will be what happens beyond that roadmap. Apple is going to need a new leader with a new way of recreating and managing the business in the future."

Yoffie said Jobs "had a unique combination of visionary creativity and decisiveness. No one will replace him."

Jobs' successor, Cook, has handled the affairs of the company thrice when Jobs was on a medical leave of absence -- once in 2004 when he was recuperating from pancreatic cancer surgery, in 2009 when he was on a six-month medical leave for a liver transplant and again in early 2011 for another unexplained medical leave.