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Steve Jobs Quits as Apple CEO; But Why Now?

Consumer tech visionary Steve Jobs quit as Apple CEO Wednesday. Investors are nervous about the company's future.
By David Lev
First Publish: 8/25/2011, 11:30 AM

Apple's iPad2
Apple's iPad2
courtesy of Apple

Steve Jobs, who steered Apple Computers into new and innovative markets and helped remake the face of consumer technology, has resigned as CEO of Apple. The move was long expected, given Jobs' ongoing bout with cancer, but Wall Street still took the news hard, with Apple shares falling about 7% in pre-market trading overnight Wednesday.

Jobs will remain on as chairman of the Board of Directors, and will be replaced as CEO by current Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook. Cook has been acting CEO since January, as Jobs has been on sick leave. In a letter addressed to the Board and to the “Apple Community,” Jobs wrote that “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. I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”

Jobs, 56, was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas in 2003, and has undergone several procedures to remove it. Since that time, his health has been a matter of speculation among analysts and investors, and the company's stock has risen and fallen several times in specific reaction to reports on his health, and to his gaunt appearance at several important media events. In 2009, Jobs underwent a successful liver transplant, and in 2011, Jobs' health became a matter for stockholders to consider, as they rejected a proposal seeking more information about his plans for a successor.

Although Jobs has on several occasions deflected the accolades given him, most investors and analysts consider him to be single-handedly responsible for the innovative products that have completely transformed the face of consumer technology products in the past decade – from the iPod, with its integrated content and hardware components providing a simple solution for music lovers, to the iPhone, by far the most popular smartphone in the world, to the iPad, the first mass-selling computer tablet product. Without Jobs at the helm, many investors fear that Apple – which is now the largest company in the world by valuation – may not be able to remain in its dominant position in the consumer tech sphere.

Many analysts also speculated on the timing of the announcement. While the move was long-expected, some analysts said that Jobs timed it in order to ensure that Apple stock would suffer as little as possible. Announcing the resignation in the middle of August, when many investors are on vacation, would give investors time to absorb the news and get used to the idea of Cook as permanent CEO.

In addition, the move comes just weeks before the expected release of the iPhone 5, which, according to many analysts, will be the biggest selling smartphone in history, by far. A recent poll by web price comparison site Pricegrabber said that 35% of  American consumers – as many as 75 million people – plan on buying an iPhone 5. “When the lines start to form outside Apple Stores around the world, people will be forgetting about Steve Jobs very quickly,” said one analyst. “His resignation won't matter anymore.”