Today, Steve Jobs has announced that he's leaving his CEO position. And although he said that he'll stay in Apple and will rule it for some time, i think this is a beginning of a decline for Apple. Tim Cook will replace Jobs as a CEO, but while Cook is a brilliant guy who helped Apple become what it is now in terms of overall infrastructure, he isn't Jobs. He isn't a visionary. Just as Ballmer, while being a great guy in his own right, is a poor replacement to Bill Gates, Tim Cook will never replace Jobs.
Microsoft is having a bit of identity crisis now - it was a PC software company, and it tried to expand itself into IM, search engines, mobile phones, gaming consoles, lotsa stuff really, and never really succeeded anywhere. The dominance of Microsoft is still a remainder from its PC software era - everyone depends on Microsoft, because everyone depends on Microsoft. If it wasn't for DirectX dominance on the desktop, i doubt that a lot of developers would flock to Xbox.
Anyway, the point is - Microsoft isn't what it was when there was Gates. And though Jobs is not yet leaving the company altogether, he is clearly preparing for his retirement - after which Apple will never be the same. Remember what was Apple when there was no Steve Jobs to guide it? It was all but dead. He came around and brought it into relevance again. He built a religion around its products. Can Tim Cook do that?
I must admit - i despise Apple products. I hate the lock-in, i hate these gadgets constantly spying on me, i hate the inflexibility and inability to look to the guts of the system and do advanced stuff. They look and act awfully pretty, but that's about all i like about them. However, i have a very, very, very deep respect for Steve Jobs. He is a one-of-a-kind guy. I wish there was more guys like him in the technology world.
The biggest question right now is - will Apple end up like AC/DC, or will they end up more like Lynyrd Skynyrd? Will they find their new leader, who will continue to push the envelope (well, AC/DC weren't exactly pushing the envelope...), or will they lose their momentum and become a barely relevant, once great company?