Without Jobs, Apple’s gap with rivals could narrow

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SEOUL — The death of Apple’s inspirational leader is likely to have a deep impact on the maker of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, giving major rivals a greater chance to catch up with the technology giant.

Steve Jobs’ creative spirit was so closely tied to the fortunes of Apple that his death at 56 raises questions about the company’s ability to keep its pipeline of transformational products running at such a fast pace.

“As a technology analyst, I am sorry for his death. It was Jobs’ Apple, not Apple’s Jobs,” said Kim Young-chan, an analyst at Shinhan Investment in Seoul.

The CEOs of rivals including Samsung Electronics, Amazon, Google and Sony mourned the death of Jobs, a sign of the respect they held for the Silicon Valley legend.

Investors had known about Jobs’ long battle with pancreatic cancer. In August, the man known for minimalist design and marketing genius handed the reins to long-time operations chief Tim Cook.

“Apple no longer has someone as creative and ambitious as Jobs that they can rely on,” said Simon Liu, deputy investment officer of Polaris Group’s fund unit.

In Asia, the fortunes of Samsung are most closely tied to Apple.

Analysts have said the South Korean conglomerate is one of the best placed companies to deliver something fresh and exciting to rival Apple. Samsung produces the closest competitor to Apple’s iPad tablet computer.

The two companies are scrapping for top spot in the smartphone market, having overtaken Nokia, the market leader for the past decade, in the second quarter.

Apple is also Samsung’s biggest customer through the sale of mobile chips and display screens.
The relationship and rivalry has helped Samsung become a top global brand over the past decade with a stock market value of $115 billion (£74 billion) — still modest compared with Apple’s $345 billion.

But the relationship has also produced tensions as Samsung emerged as a credible challenger to Apple’s mobile devices.

The two companies have sued each other in 10 countries involving more than 20 cases since April.

Samsung’s Galaxy range of smartphones and tablet computers running on Google’s Android operating system are seen as the main competitor to Apple’s game-changing iPhones and iPads.