In an email sent to his employees, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, announced that he is once again taking medical leave of absence.
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.
It may be recalled that in 2009, Jobs had undergone an operation for a liver transplant, and during that time, Apple was mostly run by COO Tim Cook, whom observers had described as competent, but not inspirational. Considering that Apple is one of the biggest corporations in the world, it’s perhaps worrying to board members and investors that their fortunes are so directly tied to just one man – the last time he was on medical leave, stock values had plunged, and already we are seeing a similar trend this time.
At the same time, the timing of this announcement is probably done to take the maximum advantage of record iPhone and iPad sales, which have helped push the company to being the second most valuable corporation in the world.
The next question of course is that for a company whose products have all borne the stamp of one man’s vision, what does this mean for new products? Some, like the iPhone 5 and the iPad 2 are probably so near completion that his absence will not affect them at all. But Apple three to five years down the road might be highly vulnerable if Jobs is not able to return to the company he started decades ago, a company, which stayed under the shadow of Microsoft until Apple re-hired Jobs after a long break of fortunes.
Either way, it is clear that Apple needs to find someone who can take over leadership for when the inevitable departure of Jobs from the company takes place, or risk losing the top spot they now hold.