We all knew this day was coming, but is comes as a bombshell nonetheless. Steve Jobs - Apple CEO and inspiration, and probably the most influential person in the business world - has announced his resignation from the position of Apple CEO.
Apple published a brief letter from Jobs, which we've reproduced in full below, and in which he conceded: "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." He asked to be made chairman of the board, and that COO Tim Cook succeed him as CEO.
In a separate release the Apple board confirmed its acquiescence with Jobs' wishes in appointing him chairman and Cook CEO.
"Steve's extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world's most innovative and valuable technology company," said Art Levinson on behalf of Apple's Board. "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. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration."
It looks like Jobs is moving to a Bill Gates-style chairmanship, in which he will be more of a figurehead and consultant than a hands-on, day-to-day leader. We must assume, however, that Jobs' decision is due not so much to a philanthropic calling as the need to attend to his own health problems.
Cook has been responsible for the nitty-gritty behind Apple's success, such as sales and supply-chain management, which has enabled Apple to both continue to maintain its enviable margins, while at the same time launch products such as the iPad, which competitors have struggled to beat on price.
The biggest question posed by Jobs' resignation is whether Apple can continue to define the direction of the technology industry as it has for the past few years. We could see Apple enter a period of consolidation, in which it's more focused on defending its already pre-eminent position, rather than trying to set the world on fire with new product categories.
Letter from Steve Jobs
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.