Steve Jobs Absence: Huge, But How Would It Rank Against Other Big-Time CEOs?

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Steve Jobs has once again rocked the tech world, albeit this time with his announcement that he is taking another medical leave of absence.

It's huge because, to most people, Jobs is Apple, and Apple is the most hip, flexible, intuitive provider of gizmos the world never knew it needed.

Says The New York Times:

Perhaps more than any other chief executive, he is seen as inseparable from his company's success.

"He may be the most vital C.E.O. of our era," said Michael Useem, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

True? Let's look at how other bigtime CEO absences would affect companies:

5. Bill Gates, Microsoft Gates is the s(t)olid, dutiful older brother to Jobs's more free-spirited dude, at least when it comes to image. But Microsoft is such a corporation. IBM survived losing the Watsons; Microsoft would putter right along without Gates.

4. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Without having seen The Social Network, we feel unqualified to speculate. We're sure Zuckerberg is indispensable to Facebook; it's just that we're pretty sure the founders of MySpace and Classmates.com were important to their companies too. In other words -- although we know, we know Facebook is the greatest thing ever -- who's to say where it ends up ten years from now, Zuckerberg or no Zuckerberg?

3. Colonel Sanders, KFC No way the Colonel would allow the "Kentucky" to be taken out of "Kentucky Fried Chicken." And we don't think he was so hot on the health food, either. KFC has all but turned into a salad bar as far as the old-school bucket o'grease people are concerned, and that can all be traced to the untimely death of the Colonel.

2. Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks and other stuff Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres and HDNet. He wouldn't be missed at either of the last two, although his cash might very well be, but if he left the Mavs it would leave a Jobs-like hole. Whether that would be a good or bad thing depends on what you think of Mark Cuban. Us, we wish he'd purchased the Cubs and shaken up MLB.

1. Richard Branson, Virgin Richard Branson is pretty much Virgin to most people who've heard of it, but most people go about living their lives without giving much thought to that particular empire. Virgin does a whole lot of stuff; it would probably cease doing most of that stuff in the years after Branson left...but as to the effect it would have on normal people's lives, it wouldn't be close to Apple.

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