Steve Jobs quits as Apple chief, hands over to Cook

Jobs, who oversaw the production of the groundbreaking Apple II and the iPhone during his time as chief of Apple, has stepped down, handing over the CEO role to longstanding stand-in Tim Cook

Steve Jobs has resigned as chief executive of Apple, taking the role of chairman instead, with his former deputy Tim Cook stepping up to head the iconic company.

Tim Cook and Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (right) has stepped down as Apple chief executive and handed over the reins to Tim Cook (left). Photo credit: James Martin/CNET News

Jobs, 56, has battled cancer for years, with Cook having filled in for him on two leaves of absence. One of those leaves of absence began at the start of this year, and Jobs never returned to his chief executive role. Apple published his resignation letter late on Wednesday.

"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," Jobs wrote. "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."

News of Jobs's resignation hit Apple's share price on Wednesday, taking it down as much as seven percent, but the price had mostly recovered by the end of trading.

The question of Jobs's successor has long been a sensitive subject, given the unusually close association that exists between Jobs and the Apple brand. Earlier this year, with Jobs on his second period of medical leave, Apple shareholders rejected proposals to have the company disclose the succession plan for the chief executive's role.

On Wednesday, it became clear that such a plan had at least been worked out. "As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple," Jobs wrote. "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."

Apple success story

Jobs founded Apple with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in 1976, with their first product being the Apple I computer kit. However, it was 1977's Apple II that made the company's name in the business market, thanks to its ability to run the VisiCalc spreadsheet application.

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.

– Steve Jobs, Apple

By 1985, with the first Mac having been released the previous year, Jobs became involved in a power struggle with chief executive John Sculley. Failing to oust Sculley, Jobs resigned and went off to found the high-end workstation firm NeXT.

The following one-and-a-half decades saw the rise of Microsoft, and Apple lost its footing through a series of product flops and leadership changes. Apple bought NeXT in 1997, bringing Jobs back into the fold as a consultant. He became interim chief executive the same year.

At that time, Jobs brought in Jonathan Ive — now arguably as important a contributor to Apple's recent success as Jobs has been — to head up Apple's design efforts. In 1998, Apple released the first iMac, designed by Ive.

Into the 2000s

In 2000, Jobs became Apple's permanent chief executive. The following year saw the release of not only the first iPod, but also the first official Apple retail stores. The company was soon back in profit, and 10 years later it is one of the largest companies in the world.

In that decade, hit product lines designed by Ive and unveiled by Jobs in front of rapt audiences have included the iPhone, the first version of which appeared in 2007, and the iPad, introduced in 2010 and still utterly dominant in the tablet market.

Tim Cook, a veteran of hardware firms such as Compaq and IBM, was brought in by Jobs in 1998. He has been Apple's chief operating officer since 2007 and retains that role, in addition to being chief executive, for now.

Although Cook has been responsible for running Apple's day-to-day operations for four years, it remains to be seen whether he can replicate Jobs's famous eye for detail — when Jobs returned from his first leave of absence in 2009, the name of the 'iPhone 3G S', approved under Cook's temporary leadership, suddenly changed to the more search engine-friendly 'iPhone 3GS'.

Vic Gundotra, Google's social business chief, wrote a Google+ post early on Thursday, recalling how Jobs had called him on a Sunday morning in early 2008 to urgently discuss fixing the colour gradient in the second 'O' in 'Google', as reproduced on the iPhone's screen.

To one of the greatest leaders I've ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you, Steve.

– Vic Gundotra, Google

"When I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January," Gundotra wrote. "It was a lesson I'll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday. To one of the greatest leaders I've ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you, Steve."

Wozniak, who says he does not have much contact with Jobs anymore, told Bloomberg on Wednesday that his former business partner would always be "remembered, maybe for the next 100 years, as the greatest technology business leader of our time".

"To think that I knew somebody who became the most important person in the world. It's actually — it's kind of stunning," Wozniak said. "Steve has made a lot of sacrifices, and now he's going to have some time for his life — rather than being pulled by all these things around him that you kind of have to do. He'll have a lot more time to do the ones he wants to. And I'm hoping that's the case."

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