|Steven P. Jobs in San Francisco in June.|
“I have always said that if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s C.E.O., I would be the first to let you know,” Mr. Jobs said in a letter released by the company. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”
The company said Mr. Jobs would become chairman. It named Timothy D. Cook, its chief operating officer, to succeed Mr. Jobs as chief executive.
Mr. Jobs, 56, has been battling cancer for several years and has been on medical leave since January, his third such absence. He underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004, and received a liver transplant in 2009. But as recently as a few weeks ago, Mr. Jobs was negotiating business issues with another Silicon Valley executive.
Rarely has a major company and industry been so dominated by a single individual, and so successful. His influence went far beyond PCs. In the last decade, Apple has redefined the music business through the iPod, the cellphone business through the iPhone and the entertainment and media world through the iPad. Again and again, Mr. Jobs gambled that he knew what the customer would want, and again and again he was right.
“The big thing about Steve Jobs key is not his genius or his charisma but his extraordinary risk-taking and his tenacity,” said Alan Deutschman, who wrote a biography of Mr. Jobs. “Apple has been so innovative because Jobs takes major risks, which is rare in corporate America. He doesn’t market test anything. It’s all his own judgment and perfectionism and gut.”
Apple briefly exceeded Exxon Mobil this month as the most valuable United States company in market capitalization. The news of Mr. Jobs’s resignation came after the market closed Wednesday. In after-hours trading, the stock fell 5 percent.
Mr. Cook, an Apple veteran, has been serving his third stint as interim chief executive since January. While he is well respected in the industry, he is little known outside of it. Analysts and Silicon Valley experts said new Apple products were already in the pipeline for the next few years, but beyond that it was an open question.
“You could make the case that Steve has injected so much of his DNA into Apple that Apple will continue,” said Guy Kawasaki, who was an Apple executive in the late 1980s. “Or you can make the case that without Steve, Apple will flounder. But you cannot make the case that Apple without Steve Jobs will be better. Hard to conceive of that.”
Tim Bajarin, president of the technology research firm Creative Strategies, said the news about Mr. Jobs was “a shock because it’s abrupt.” But Mr. Bajarin said that “while there’s definitely concern for Steve as a person,” he had little concern for the company.
“Steve has built a very deep bench of managers, including the leadership of Tim Cook, who clearly understands Steve’s vision, goals and direction,” said Mr, Bajarin, who has covered Apple for 30 years. ”Secondly, this is not a company that creates product roadmaps on a short-term basis.”
The early years of Apple long ago passed into legend: The two young hippie-ish founders, Mr. Jobs and Steve Wozniak; the introduction of the first Macintosh computer in 1984; Mr. Jobs’ abrupt exit in a power struggle. But it was his return to Apple in 1998 that started a streak that raised the company from the near-dead to its current unmatched position.
Apple’s product pipeline is an unknowable thing, but there has been strong indication that the computer maker is very close to revealing a new iPhone, which would likely include a more powerful processor (possibly dual-core, to match some rival’s chips) to handle the expanding multimedia demands placed on mobile devices.
The upcoming iPhone is also likely to be thinner and lighter, as every new version has been since the original’s release in 2007. A higher-resolution rear camera has also been expected, as well as the possibility of more powerful voice-recognition features borne out of Apple’s purchase of Siri, a small voice-recognition company, in April 2010.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Jobs recommended that Mr. Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, succeed him. In his times as interim chief executive, he has received generally good marks from Wall Street.
Mr. Cook, 50, joined Apple in 1998 and managed the intricacies of its supply chain and later Apple’s sales and Macintosh division. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2007, overseeing the day-to-day operations. Mr. Jobs and Mr. Cook are polar opposites. While Mr. Jobs is fiery and mercurial, Mr. Cook is soft spoken and keeps and low profile.
Wall Street has widely considered Mr. Cook, raised in Alabama and an Auburn University graduate, to be the likely successor to Mr. Jobs. While Mr. Jobs convalesced, Apple thrived with the continuing rise in iPhone sales and huge growth in the iPad, the dominant tablet computer.
The instant messaging service Twitter lit up with an outpouring of grief and gratitude Tuesday night. The few ill-spirited comments or wisecracks were met with immediate retorts that the authors should be ashamed of themselves.
“Steve Jobs is the greatest leader our industry has ever known,” wrote Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com. “It’s the end of an era.”
“Funny how much emotion you can feel about a stranger,” wrote Susan Orlean, the author. “And yet every phone call I make, every time I’m on a computer, he’s part of it.”
“Very sad news about Steve Jobs at $AAPL,” wrote Jim Cramer, the CNBC host. “He is America’s greatest industrialist. Perhaps the greatest ever.”
Andy Baio, a tech entrepreneur in Portland, Ore., put it most directly and effectively: “We’ll miss you, Steve.”
By DAVID STREITFELD
Published: August 24, 2011