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Steve Jobs to Take Medical Leave of Absence

Apple has released a media advisory containing an email message sent by Steve Jobs to all Apple employees, announcing that the board of directors has granted him a medical leave of absence so he can “focus on his health.” No time frame is given, apart from Jobs saying he hopes “to be back as soon as I can.”

Jobs is retaining his CEO position, and will be involved in major strategic decisions for the company, but COO Tim Cook will once again take over the reins for Apple’s day-to-day operations. Cook handled Apple’s operations for two months in 2004, while Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery (see “Steve Jobs Undergoes Cancer Surgery,” 2 August 2004), and again for six months in 2009, while Jobs was having a liver transplant related to complications from the pancreatic cancer (see “Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave Until June,” 14 January 2009, and “Apple: Jobs Back on the Job,” 30 June 2009).

By all accounts, Cook did a good job during those previous stints, and there’s every reason to believe he and the rest of Apple’s executive team will continue to move the company forward. As I wrote back in June 2009, “While there’s no question that Jobs brings vision and marketing savvy to Apple, the company’s performance over the last six months shows that he is by no means indispensable.”

Jobs ends his email message with, “In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.” In keeping with that request, we won’t be speculating on Jobs’s health problems or attempting to divine what might be wrong. Anyone who has suffered pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant is obviously not in the best of health, and running the second-most valuable company in the world cannot help but be taxing.

Our best wishes to Jobs for a quick return to health.

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