The news media and every pundit in the world basically said Apple would be just fine, thank you very much. DaringFireball / John Gruber summed up a lot of the sentiment with the following:
Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.
So Apple will be exactly the same no matter what because Steve Jobs carved in stone and left it for all the world to consume?
Of course not. Either Steve Jobs is the fantastic leader, innovative, and will continue to change the world, or he's a worthless hanger-on, and provides no value. The entire world seems to be saying the latter. Well, actually, that's not strictly true. They all SAY the former, but by implying Apple's going to be just fine, and crank along like nothing will at all change, they're IMPLYING the latter.
I think that Steve Jobs was and is critical to Apple's success and Apple WILL be different (and almost certainly) worse if he's not arround. That's just the law of talented people. There are a finite amount of them in the world, it is rare to EVER find one working at your company. When you lose one, you are likely to not find another one.
But to steal from an excellent post from Tim Bray:
I’m irritated at the prattling pundits prognosticating Apple’s future, most of them saying “Everything’s just fine, Tim Cook he da man.” Jeepers, the essential point about business is that you never know how the story’s going to end.
EXACTLY. No one in the world could have predicted the direction Apple was going to take and succeed in starting in 1997 when Jobs returned. I doubt anyone can accurately predict where they will be even three years out, even inside the company. Everyone has plans, and nice connect the dot lines from here to there, but guessing what's actually going to happen is just a total crap shoot. One thing I will promise - Apple WILL change, it already has.