updated 06:50 pm EDT, Wed August 24, 2011
Steve Jobs ends reign at Apple
Apple on Wednesday upturned the technology industry with word that Steve Jobs had resigned as CEO of Apple. He will remain Chairman of the Board and, after he "strongly recommended" the role to directors, has had COO Tim Cook take his CEO position. No reason was given for the departure, though Apple stressed that Jobs would still have input at the company.
"Steve has made countless contributions to Apple's success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple's immensely creative employees and world class executive team," Genentech Chairman and Apple board member said. "In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration."
The surprise exit follows an indefinite medical leave and may be a strong indication that Jobs doesn't believe he can return to full-time work at the company. He had surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004 that is believed to have at least temporarily taken care of the issue, but complications forced a leave in 2009 and left him a frail condition that prompted the most recent absence.
Tim Cook is expected to be a safe replacement for Jobs. As COO, he has often been credited with turning around the company's operations and cutting back product launch times from several months to just weeks. He has also been credited to mastering the supply chain and getting the company an edge in flash memory, aluminum construction, displays, and other technology that others had previously ignored.
In making the recommendation, Jobs acknowledged that there was not just a succession plan in place but that Tim Cook was the frontrunner for the plan. Some had speculated that alternatives such as Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, and even Jonathan Ive were candidates. Apple is known to have an Apple University that not only trains executives in skills but inculcates the philosophy Jobs wants to put forward in replacements.
Jobs is by far the most successful leader of the company. Most of his success came after his return in 1997, when he refocused the company. The iMac almost single-handedly saved the company's fortunes and was followed by a string of major successes, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, as well as numerous definitive Macs. The growth was fast enough that Apple now often has the largest stock market cap of any company in the world and is wealthier on a more absolute sense than its long-time rival Microsoft.
Update: Steve Jobs has posted his full letter.
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.
As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.