Steve Jobs, the chairman and CEO of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), is taking another medical leave of absence from the company. Once again, COO Tim Cook will take charge of day-to-day operations.
Jobs’ announcement, made first to Apple employees by e-mail and then released publicly by Apple, says that the break is to “focus on my health.”
He continues: “I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company. … I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.”
This is the third time that Jobs has taken a medical leave from his role as CEO of Apple. The most recent was two years ago almost to the day, when he stepped away; he later admitted to having a liver transplant during his seven-month leave. At the time, Tim Cook also took over operations as he did in 2004 when Jobs stepped away to recover from emergency surgery for pancreatic cancer.
The leave means that Jobs likely will miss some key announcements that are reportedly in the pipeline: they include the launch of the second generation of the iPad tablet and The Daily, the News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) iPad newspaper. Jobs was to have appeared with Rupert Murdoch in San Francisco this Wednesday. Late last week, the launch was delayed; the problem at the time was thought to be with iTunes subscription technology. While that is still likely an issue, this news puts a slightly different light on it. Murdoch can’t wait indefinitely to launch a $30 million investment in order to do it with Jobs by his side.
Apple carefully timed the announcement for Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday in the U.S. when markets are closed and a day before the company is set to announce earnings. On Friday, Apple’s stock closed at $348.48.
The news about Jobs also comes on the same day that the Wall Street Journal published a piece by investor James Stewart about whether Apple’s best years are behind the company.
The column was not about Jobs at the helm; rather, it raised questions over whether Apple had peaked in terms of product innovation: “I’m not sure what worlds are left for Apple to conquer,” he writes.
An unfortunate coincidence that this came out the same day as Jobs’ announcement, but it does underscore the challenges that Apple will face under Tim Cook once again. Last week Cook was already demonstrating himself at Apple’s latest product announcement: he shared the stage with Verizon executives when the two companies announced that the carrier would finally get a CDMA version of the iPhone Feb. 10.
More as warranted. Full text of the note from Jobs to staff is below:
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.
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.
I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.