RealTime IT News

Apple's Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave

Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Source: Reuters

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence, a week after revealing that he suffers from a condition he described as a hormone imbalance.

In an e-mail to employees released today by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Jobs said he was stepping aide temporarily to focus on his condition, which he had earlier said wouldn't hinder his duties. He also said the move would better ensure that rampant media speculation about his health won't overshadow Apple's work.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, will run the company until his return in summer, Jobs said, adding that he will continue to retain the position of CEO during that time.

"During the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought," Jobs wrote. "In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June."

"As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out," he added. "I look forward to seeing all of you this summer."

Rumors surrounding the health of Apple's most famous employee have continued since Jobs' July 2004 surgery for pancreatic cancer. They resurfaced following his dramatically thinner appearance at Apple's 2008 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Further fanning the flames of gossip has been the fact that Apple is widely seen as reluctant to speak openly about Jobs' health. Industry rumormongers regularly criticize Apple and Jobs for the fact that his cancer had not been disclosed to shareholders until after his surgery, despite a diagnosis months earlier, in October 2003.

Jobs indicated today that the ongoing buzz around his health had also been a factor in his decision to take a leave of absence.

"I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community," he wrote. "Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well."

In his letter last week, Jobs also pledged to make an announcement if he becomes unable to continue run the company.

Apple's Phil Schiller and COO Tim Cook
Phil Schiller (left) and Tim Cook
Source: Apple
Apple has not revealed a succession plan for Jobs. Cook is seen as one of Jobs' two most likely replacements, after having previously run Apple's day-to-day operations during Jobs' month-long recuperation following his 2004 cancer surgery.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, is seen as a second leading candidate to succeed Jobs. At Macworld last week, Schiller took over the keynote address slot traditionally reserved for Jobs.

The fact that Schiller would stand in for Jobs had prompted an online blogging frenzy about Jobs' condition, furthered by rumors on a blog site that the Apple CEO had backed out of his annual keynote at Macworld because he was ailing. The occasion marked the first time since 1997 that Jobs had not been the event's keynote speaker.