We don’t know Steve Jobs, any of us. The closest most of us can claim is mere proximity: we have on several occasions found ourselves a few feet away from him at an Apple press event or in an Apple Store, and Adam and Tonya met him briefly in 1988 when he cut the ribbon on the first public room of NeXT machines at Cornell University. But we’ll feel his last departure from Apple as much as any acquaintance can, having spent much of our collective adult lives using computers and software guided largely by his vision, and writing about the company he founded and its iconic products.
Last week, Apple released a brief statement that Jobs had sent to Apple’s board of directors indicating his resignation as CEO. Former Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was immediately appointed as head of the firm, continuing the role he has held since Jobs announced his most recent hiatus from the CEO position (see “Steve Jobs to Take Medical Leave of Absence,” 17 January 2011). Jobs will assume a new role as chairman of Apple’s board of directors.
Cook also acted as interim CEO during previous medical absences by Jobs, and was in charge during several key product introductions and development cycles. By all accounts, Cook has the same attention to detail from top to bottom, and he is supported by an experienced Apple executive team.
In the letter, addressed to the “Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community,” Jobs wrote, “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. Unfortunately, that day has come.”
The letter suggests what many have feared for some time: that Jobs’s health has been declining, and that despite a liver transplant in 2009 (see “Apple: Jobs Back on the Job,” 30 June 2009), the toll taken on his body by pancreatic cancer and the surgery to remove it is catching up with him. Jobs gave no word, and we are likely to receive none, whether he is in his last days, or simply cannot sustain the kind of mental and physical effort necessary to run the most valuable company in the world.
Jobs worked in a subtle slap at analysts and pundits who have criticized Apple for not having made public the plan for who would replace him as CEO: “I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.” That criticism came despite the fact that Cook has remained at Apple, when he could undoubtedly have taken a CEO job at any of numerous other technology companies. Apple also awarded Tim Cook 1,000,000 shares of stock, contingent on him remaining with Apple through 2021.
We won’t recapitulate the history of Apple and Jobs’s journey into the wilderness and back here. You can find a thousand accounts of that elsewhere, and we’re collecting some of the more interesting stories that have come out after the announcement in “Steve Jobs Resigns: Reactions and Remembrances” (25 August 2011). But on a personal note, we at TidBITS have seen our lives shaped by Apple’s products, in our choice of work and play, and in how we view the world.
Apple will be a different company without Jobs at the day-to-day helm, in whatever role the coming days bring for him and the firm. It won’t be a worse company, but it will be different. Whatever the cause, and whatever state he is in, we don’t need to know. We only wish him and his family the best.