A number of industry analysts have concluded that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs may prove irreplaceable in the long-term.
To be sure, the majority of Cupertino's notable accomplishments can be attributed to Steve's laser-like focus, along with his willingness to defy conventional paradigms while reinventing existing products and business models.
Most importantly, however, Jobs was capable of looking beyond the nuts and bolts of products, services and technologies - by predicting the revolutionary impact they would have on people's behavior and on society as a whole.
"Apple didn't invent the personal computer, the icon/point-and-click interface, the personal music player or the cellphone - but it did take all these products to a new level by reinventing how people interact with them," explained Bob Braverman, senior director, communications and consumer electronics at IHS.
"This is entirely because of the visionary way in which Steve saw these markets and their usage models. While there are clearly very smart people at Apple, I question whether anyone can envision and realize social and behavioral change the way that Jobs did. Without Jobs at the helm, Apple's massive margins have got to wane at some point."
Jagdish Rebello, principal analyst, communications and consumer electronics at IHS, expressed similar sentiments.
"I would be hard pressed to believe the products impacting the world in 20 years will be based on Apple's products of today," opined Rebello. "The company must come up with new revolutionary products to maintain its lead."
However, Steve Mather, principal analyst, wireless communications for IHS, emphasized that Cupertino maintained a two-and-a-half-year lead and was unlikely to be overtaken in the short-term.
"[Of course], within three to five years, that lead could start to be whittled down if the company can't continue to come up with new revolutionary products," he added.
Dale Ford, senior VP, electronics market intelligence for IHS, concurred, noting Apple would likely continue its success in the near term based on Jobs' track record.
"Jobs has been compared to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, [who] were able to carry on their vision and legacy because of the institutions they established that lasted after their deaths. The question now is whether Apple has learned enough from Jobs that it can continue on with its success - like Ford Motor Co. did after the death of Henry Ford," said Ford.
"Steve replicated his success across multiple companies such as Pixar - [where one of his] major precepts was not to be a slave to the idea that a product had to come out on a certain date. He always made sure the product was ready for primetime before he rolled it out. Even though Jobs wasn't running Pixar anymore, the people there continued to follow the principle of releasing no movie before its time."