San Francisco: Apple chief Steve Jobs is taking medical leave of absence because of “complex” health issues, sparking worries about the future of the iconic maker of iPhones, iPods and Macintosh computers.
In an email to employees on Wednesday, Jobs said he is going on leave “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.”
Jobs, 53, a cancer survivor who disclosed on 5 January that he was being treated for a “hormone imbalance,” said that since that time “I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.”
“I have asked (chief operating officer) Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day-to-day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job,” he added.
The price of Apple’s stock plunged 7.07% to $79.30 in after-hours trading following the announcement.
“Everyone is going to speculate he is on his deathbed, like it usually goes,” said Gartner analyst Van Baker. “The company will do just fine with Steve taking a leave of absence.
Jobs had explained his no-show at Macworld, this month’s annual cult-like gathering of Apple devotees, with a letter stating that a hormone imbalance had caused him to lose a troubling amount of weight.
Jobs, who underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2005, looked gaunt at his last public appearance in September.
Hormonal imbalance is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer and could signal that Jobs isn’t done battling the often terminal illness, said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.
“It is likely that he is not coming back, because he wouldn’t step away from this job for five minutes unless it was critical,” Enderle said.
Apple has been notoriously secretive about Jobs’s health and speculation has been rampant since it was announced that for the first time in 11 years he would not give the keynote speech at the Macworld Expo.
Marketing vice president Phil Schiller gave the keynote at Macworld, which ran from January 6-9 and featured companies promoting gadgets, gear, software or services tailored for Apple products.
NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker said Jobs’s absence should not cripple the company.
As Apple’s chief operating officer, Cook has been in charge of the nitty-gritty running of the company. Cook also heads the California firm’s Macintosh computer division.
However, in the public’s eyes Jobs is Apple incarnate. Apple was teetering on the brink of ruin when Jobs returned to the helm in 1996 and led it to marketplace glory.
He had left the company in 1985 after an internal power struggle.
Born in San Francisco on 24 February, 1955 to a single mother and adopted at a young age, Jobs founded Apple in 1976 with engineer Steve Wozniak after dropping out of college.