Apple kicked off its annual World Wide Developer's Conference on Monday, and it proved something very important; it could generate plenty of excitement without Steve Jobs on stage.

I know that I along with many others watch with anticipation as live bloggers on the scene gave us the blow by blow of each announcement; and with each one--the new lower priced Mac Book Pros, the iPhone 3Gs, the $99 iPhone and the $29 Snow Leopard upgrade--you could watch the buzz rise across Twitter, across the blogosphere. It simply didn't matter that Jobs wasn't up on stage delivering the news. It wasn't about who gave the news; it was about the news itself.

This is an extremely important development for a company that has lived and died by the cult of personality around its fearless leader. Jobs by all reports will be back at the helm sometime this summer, but his time off should put to rest once and for the notion that Apple will somehow fall apart when Jobs eventually retires.

Jobs is a Force

Those of us who have been around long enough, remember a time when Apple was not what it is today. Back in the mid-90s, they were adrift with little direction when Apple executives at the time made a good decision; they bought co-founder Steve Jobs' company NeXT computers and brought Jobs back to the helm. At the time, there was a small committed group of users, what Seth Godin calls a Tribe, but there wasn't enough of them. Jobs rebuilt the company, made Apple cool again starting with iPod and the rest as they say is history.

For years, Jobs would step on stage at the WWDC and with much fanfare announce all of the cool new toys we would all be wanting in the not-too-distant future. His reputation grew. Shareholders began to believe the company was all about him. And when he began to experience health problems last year, people wondered if Apple could even survive without Jobs at the Helm.

It's Never About One Person

Jobs has nurtured the company he once founded and built it into a viable, thriving organization. Apple stores dot the world and are go-to destinations. People want these products. He's done his job, and while he was gone, guess what? The show went on as it always does. When Jobs went down with illness, the company continued to operate and to build products and to innovate.

There is little doubt that Steve Jobs is an icon of our times. He has his hand in some of the greatest consumer technology ever produced; the iPod , the iPhone, the Mac Book Pro -- these are great products and they exist because of him, but even though Jobs will be back this summer, his company will go on long after he retires because companies like Apple are full of people with great ideas.

When bad things happen like Jobs getting sick and needing a leave of absence, it is easy to see the negative for him as an individual and for his company, but sometimes just as individuals grow and develop and learn from bad experiences, so can companies. And maybe Apple learned (and the world for that matter) that Apple doesn't need Steve Jobs to make great products. They did just fine when he was gone for a while.