Apple CEO Steve Jobs is handing the operational reins of the company over to Chief Operating Officer (COO) Tim Cook once again as the Apple co-founder takes an indefinite medical leave of absence. Today's announcement is a bit of a shock and the underlying health issues driving this decision are a matter of speculation at this point.
Jobs has a recent, long history of serious health issues. Jobs battled pancreatic cancer in 2004. In 2009 Jobs took a similar leave of absence, turning over day-to-day control of Apple to Cook. After traveling to Tennessee for a liver transplant, Jobs returned to Apple in June 2009.
In a letter to Apple employees cited by All Things Digital, Jobs says, "At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company."
Jobs letter to Apple employees also proclaims, "I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple's day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011."
Neither Apple nor Jobs is providing any estimate at this point of how long the medical leave is expected to be. Jobs simply states that he will be back as soon as he can, and asks that his privacy be respected as he faces his health issues.
Terse Announcement, Little Else
As tight-lipped as Apple is about most things, there is generally ample rumor and speculation circulating about the company. This news, however, did not seem to be on any analyst or pundit radars, leaving us to speculate on exactly what the health concern might be, when--or if--Jobs will return to run Apple, and how his absence might impact Apple vision, strategy, and execution.
Apple stock has dropped by nearly 8 percent on the German markets following the news. Investors love Apple, but they are less confident in the company without Jobs driving it.
Apple's public relations department has not returned calls requesting comment on this report.