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Apple's product pipeline looks intact

Steve Jobs' resignation shouldn't change or slow down the company's game plan, which analysts say is in place for the next few years.

Apple announced yesterday that CEO Steve Jobs is stepping down, but the company's release of uber-popular products isn't likely to slow down. James Martin/CNET

Apple will keep cranking out a steady stream of "magical products" for the next few years despite the loss of Steve Jobs as chief executive.

Jobs has assembled a massive machine that shows little signs of slowing down. The Cupertino, Calif., company's product pipeline appears to be intact for the next several years, analysts say. In addition, Apple has a strong management team to guide those devices to market.

"Executives change, everything else stays the same," Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley said in a research note.

Jobs announced his resignation yesterday, but was simultaneously named chairman of the company. His continued presence with Apple means that despite ongoing health issues, he will still have influence over the company's direction.

That Jobs is officially vacating his CEO position now is not a surprise after taking three leaves of absences in recent years, including his latest one in January. He and his leadership team have had plenty of time to prepare for this scenario. The board's decision to instantly name Tim Cook CEO, as Jobs recommended, shows the company had a plan, even if it didn't share it publicly.

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Apple's stock is expected to take a hit today as investors process the company's loss of Jobs. But much of it may be an overreaction.

"The short-term sell-off of Apple shares immediately after the announcement is driven by fears that Apple will not continue to perform as it has once Steve Jobs leaves the CEO role," said Ovum analyst Jan Dawson. "However, these fears appear relatively unfounded at least in the short-term."

Jobs' tenure at the helm of Apple has likely cemented the company's future for the next few years, at least.

The iPhone remains the single best-selling smartphone in the market despite a raft of strong competitors. Reports that Apple will begin selling the hit device to Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA customers would only further add to its market dominance. The company's computer line likewise continues to drive the industry, with its super-thin MacBook Airs pushing PC manufacturers to counter with a new Ultrabook concept.

But the success of the iPad tablet leaves Apple in a truly comfortable position. Jobs essentially created a new market for the current generation of touch-screen tablets, giving it a few years' head start over rivals.

The other entrants have largely struggled. Hewlett-Packard has scrapped its WebOS device business and is liquidating its inventory of TouchPad tablets for as little as $99. Motorola has acknowledged mixed results with its Xoom, noting that sales only picked up after cutting the price. A recent Robert W. Baird survey showed consumers are interested in the iPad more than any other device by a wide margin.

Apple making moves to secure components for products a few generations out is further indication the company has a game plan in place.

To be sure, Apple will miss Jobs' showmanship. Cook is an effective operations executive, but he lacks the flair and charisma of Jobs.

At Verizon's unveiling of its iPhone in January, Cook and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam showed off the device at an event that notably lacked the buzz of a Jobs presentation.

McAdam, in an e-mailed statement sent to CNET today, expressed his confidence in Cook.

"Tim Cook will make an excellent CEO, continuing the traditions and performance culture Steve instilled at Apple," he said. "We look forward to building on the strong foundation Steve helped lay between Apple and Verizon."

Apple has been addressing the potential loss of Jobs' famed marketing acumen by pushing key executives such as design guru Johnny Ive and marketing head Philip Schiller, who have been increasingly featured at product showcases and in videos found on the company's Web site.

"We believe Apple has a deep and talented executive team in the areas of supply chain management, hardware/software design, and product marketing," Walkley said.

Longer term, Apple will need to show it can succeed without Jobs' guiding influence. That remains a bigger question mark for investors and the Apple faithful alike.

"Tim Cook will need to prove himself and gain confidence from investors that he can maintain the amazing AAPL magic," said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu.

But for now, Apple still holds an enviable position in the technology world, with or without Jobs.