Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s fall from grace has happened rather suddenly, and there’s been a lot of debate about the company’s course since the loss of co-founder Steve Jobs. Analysts’ valuations of the company are all over the place, probably because no one knows what to think. Why are investors giving the company such a hard time? Let’s face it: there is no real information to back up what anyone says about Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). It’s all about public opinion.

It’s important to realize that as with all companies, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s stock price is entirely based on public opinion. The fact that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has replaced Cook as the highest rated CEO on the careers site Glassdoor certainly shows what the public thinks of Cook. He fell from the top spot down to number 18; that’s not something that happens unless the public has lost faith in you.

Tim Cook And Steve Jobs

Let’s make a list of the problems Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is facing: worries about weak iPhone demand; investor ire over the company’s cash hoard; and iPad cannibalization. And here are the good things: the rumored iTV; the rumored iWatch; and the rumored low-cost iPhone. Unfortunately the items in that last list are all rumors, but if the company does deliver on these rumors in a big way, the public opinion of the company just might turn around.

But what really lies at the heart of the debate over Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is whether the company will continue the visionary course it started with under Steve Jobs. He was hailed as a leader and a visionary. He came up with products before anyone else thought of them. We’ve gotten to the end of the products he came up with, and the company now has to stand on its own two legs. Can it keep innovating? It depends on who you ask, and right now the public seems to mostly be listening to the naysayers.

Forbes published an article by former Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) COO Bob Herbold. He writes about Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and how there seems to be a correlation between the two. As the Dow soared into a new record high, on the same record-setting day, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) dropped to $429 per share, a reduction of 39 percent from a year ago.

Herbold believes that the reason Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s stock is falling is because the public no longer believes Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) can innovate the way it did under Jobs. Instead he points to two other tech leaders: QUALCOMM, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM)’s Paul Jacobs and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM)’s Lou Gerstner.

He said Jobs, Jacobs and Gerstner shared three main things. They were all leaders rather than administrators, they were personally involved in their companies, and they had “the guts to lead.”

Herbold stops short of saying that current Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t have these things and even admits, “Apple could surprise us in the next six to nine months by emerging with yet another big new idea.”

But he also said it’s possible that the “Apple era may be on its way out.”

Forbes also published a separate article by another author who opposes Herbold’s view of the company and insists that Cook is “the right man for Apple.” Internet entrepreneur Mark Rogowsky points to several factors he believes indicate that Cook is actually doing a good job – despite what the public may think.

He points out that Cook is taking the company places it probably never would have gone under Jobs – probably with the goal of increasing the company’s worth. Although Jobs was always focused on getting a premium for his company’s products, Cook introduced the iPad Mini. It’s less expensive than the original iPad, and some are concerned about cannibalization.

But what if this is the direction the company must go in if it’s going to survive? At least one tech VP believes that 10-inch tablets are on the way out, and not just because of price. Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) VP Kirk Sakugen said that size matters, and he may be right.

Under Cook, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has also “incrementally” improved the iPhone, just as Jobs would have done. However, it is also said to be working on a low-cost iPhone, and numerous analysts have said the company must develop one in order to stay in the game. It’s undeniable that emerging markets are primed for the greatest amount of growth in the coming years, and if Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is going to address these markets, it needs a less expensive product.

Rogowsky believes that a low-cost iPhone and also a larger-sized iPhone will join the company’s product portfolio “eventually.”

He said one thing Cook hasn’t done is reinvent “an entire segment of computing” like Jobs did with his products. This fact right here may be the crux of what the public is worried about. Under Jobs we had the Macbook Air, the iMac, the iPod, the smartphone and the tablet. These products were new computing categories, and we have not seen that from Apple since Jobs went away. But then Rogowsky doesn’t believe there’s much left to reinvent in the computer world.