“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,” wrote Jobs, who has been on a health leave of absence since January. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”
Although not entirely unexpected given the grave nature of his previous illnesses — he had surgery for a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004 — Jobs’s resignation ends one of the most extraordinary runs in business history. This month, Apple briefly became the most valuable company in the world, surpassing oil giant Exxon Mobil.
Jobs has been replaced by Tim Cook, his longtime No. 2 and the company’s chief operating officer. Cook has run Apple’s day-to-day operations during Jobs’s health-related absences. Jobs will be chairman of the board.
A volatile visionary, a detail-obsessed taskmaster, a lover of simple, understated design in hardware and in software, Jobs over the past three decades has had an outsize, iconoclastic influence on personal computing — first with the Apple II and then the Macintosh computers, then iPods, and now with post-PC devices such as the iPhone and iPad. No other electronics company in the world introduces products that spur massive lines of fans that snake around malls, sometimes for days.
“He’s had a massive impact on personal computing — more important than Bill Gates or anybody else, I think,” said Leander Kahney, editor of the blog Cult of Mac and a longtime computer industry observer. “He has made this company in his image. It functions almost as an extension of his unique personality. There’s really nothing else like it.”
In recent years, as Apple stores have popped up in malls around the country and in iconic locations on several continents — it has a mammoth store in London’s Covent Garden — the company’s reach has stretched beyond its fanboy customers, who disliked Microsoft’s more geeky offerings, and into the lives of everyday consumers. They use the company’s products in their offices, their cars, on their couches and in bed.
Even the stodgy federal government has recently embraced Apple products, deploying iPads, iPhones and Mac laptops to bureaucrats, criminal investigators and doctors. Company executives have said that interest in the iPad by government agencies, schools and colleges has taken them by surprise. Several other companies have tried to match Apple’s recent success with the iPad, but most competing products have not caught on.