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Survey finds consumers believe Apple is bigger than its CEO, Steve Jobs

If Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs were to leave Apple, it would not have a material impact on customers' buying intentions, a new survey has found.

RBC Capital Markets and ChangeWave recently conducted a survey of 3,091 respondents between Jan. 31 and Feb. 9, asking them about a hypothetical scenario in which Jobs might depart Apple, the company he co-founded. Of those surveyed, 93 percent said they would likely continue buying Apple's products or would not actively change their purchasing decisions if Jobs were not at the helm.

The latest results are a change from June 2008, when a previous survey found that 18 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to buy Apple products if Steve Jobs were not with the company.

Analyst Mike Abramsky said the results show that Apple may be bigger than its CEO. Consumers may now have a higher comfort about the company without Jobs at the helm than they did in the past, thanks in part to its success in 2009 with Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook at the helm.

The last time Jobs was on medical leave, the company's stock rose 144 percent, revenue increased by 20 percent, and the company shipped 25 million iPhones.

After Jobs announced in January that he would take a medical leave of absence but remain CEO, investors have been concerned about the possibility of Apple without Jobs at the helm. But many analysts on Wall Street believe that Apple has a deep bench of executive talent that is qualified to lead the company into the future.

Abramsky said the new survey could show that Apple has transitioned in the minds of consumers over the past few years into a company that isn't just about Jobs, its charismatic leader and chief salesman.

"Consumers have had 3 years to evolve their perception of the Apple brand around its creative new products, cutting edge innovation, iTunes/App Store ecosystem and premium quality positioning — beyond the buying pull of Apple's iconic CEO," he said.