Ever since former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a few years ago, rumors and speculation have swirled, both about his health and his potential future at the helm of Apple. Soon those rumors will be put to the test; as of a few minutes ago, Jobs resigned as Apple’s CEO.
His larger-than-life shoes will likely be filled by COO Tim Cook, who has some experience in the role. Before now, Steve Jobs took two temporary absences from Apple – an earlier one during which he received a liver transplant to help combat complications of pancreatic cancer, and one this past January, when he voluntarily stepped down in an effort to focus on his health.
Despite handing the reins of day-to-day operations over to Cook each time, Mr. Jobs remained steadfast in his commitment to Apple, staying heavily involved in both product development and releases. Although he stepped a bit out of the limelight during these times, he was present on stage for large announcements such as the iPad 2 and, more recently, during Apple’s WWDC – the developer event that showed off iOS 5 for the first time.
Jobs has remained very private when it comes to issues surrounding his personal health; only when it has been necessary for investors to know about the company’s future has news of his health come to light. In a similar vein, tonight’s statement discussing his resignation was nothing if not succinct, expressing hope and confidence for the future of the company.
Many Apple fans, but especially investors, are likely to express concern over the announcement – and rightly so. The company has seen its share of trouble since its inception, and came very close to shuttering its doors – only to be revived when Mr. Jobs came back when they acquired his new company, NeXTSTEP. The software that came with the purchase became the underpinnings of OS X, easily Apple’s most successful operating system yet.
His influence has gone even further in recent years, personally overseeing the refinement of the company’s Mac hardware into the Mini and MacBook Air computers, and the development of the iPod line of personal music players, which ultimately resulted in the iPhone and iPad, two pieces of consumer tech that have catapulted Apple into its status as one of the world’s most affluent organizations.
Tim Cook, in whom the board has already expressed its own letter of confidence, isn’t seen as offering Apple anything approaching Steve Jobs’ vision and showmanship. He has come to be known as a organizational genius, a vital role as Apple has grown in recent leaps and bounds. Depending on just how severe a state Mr. Jobs’ health is in, it’s widely expected that he’ll continue to maintain a guiding role in the company’s development and release cycles.
Can Apple survive without Steve Jobs at the helm? Absolutely. Will it be the same, however? Absolutely not. And that, most of all, is the question everyone is asking tonight.
Apple’s earlier press release:
PRESS RELEASE: Letter from Steve Jobs
August 24, 2011-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.