Apple founder and technology icon Steve Jobs has resigned as the company’s CEO effective immediately. Reasons stated include an inability to meet the duties and expectations required of the position, following his recent health issues. Former chief operating officer Tim Cook has been named CEO in his absence, and will immediately assume all responsibilities associated with the job.
“I’d 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,” Jobs stated earlier today in a letter to Apple’s board and community. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”
For many industry watchers though, the resignation fails to register as a complete surprise, as Jobs’ health has long been a subject of much debate by consumer electronics pundits. Having previously battled with pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant, he’s taken three medical leaves of absence in recent years, including one which he’s been on since January of this year. Recent public appearances for the high-tech executive have also been few and far between, with his increasingly rare cameos confined to gala events such as the iPad 2’s March unveiling.
A polarizing figure in the high-tech world, Jobs, who will remain as chairman of the board, was responsible for revolutionary products from the Apple II to Macintosh, iPad, iPhone and iPod digital music player. Also a pioneer in digital music distribution, iTunes, the industry-leading online service he co-founded, was responsible for the mass popularization of the MP3 format, and generated over 10 billion song downloads since debuting in 2001. Since translated into 19 languages, and a commonly-cited catalyst for physical albums’ declining sales, its popularity is indirectly responsible for the success of breakout Internet artists from Soulja Boy to Rebecca Black.
Predicting Jobs’ impending departure, many have questioned Apple’s ability to function without its charismatic leader, given such a storied legacy. Others say the firm has long been able to command the spotlight without standing in its founder’s admittedly long shadow. Regardless of Jobs’ actual hands-on role in the company’s day-to-day operations though, he remains a legendary figure in the eyes of many Apple fans and technology enthusiasts. Investors apparently agree, as Apple stock, which recently hit an all-time high trading at about $400 a share, was down 5% today after the market’s closing.
Whether Apple can retain its creative edge in the coming years, and remain capable of meeting growing challenges on both the increasingly contentious smartphone and tablet PC fronts, appears to be of paramount concern. But succeed or fail, proponents on all ends of the spectrum can agree on one thing. For both everyday electronics shoppers and titans of the technology industry alike, Jobs’ departure truly marks the end of an era.