Thursday 25 August 2011

Apple | Steve Jobs steps down

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has resigned, making way for operations chief Tim Cook
APPLE's outgoing chief Steve Jobs has been praised for the courage he has shown in his business life and personal life, in his struggles with cancer.

Apple said Mr Jobs has submitted his resignation to the board of directors and "strongly recommended" that the board name Mr Cook as his successor. Mr Jobs, 56 years old, has been elected chairman of the board and Mr Cook will join the board, effective immediately, the company said.

Steve Jobs has spent his career challenging conventions about personal computing. He's transformed an industry and changed the way we think about technology.

"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," Mr Jobs said in his resignation letter. "Unfortunately, that day has come."

He added that Mr Jobs will "continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration."

After a brief halt, Apple's shares slid 5.13 per cent to $US355.70 in after-hours trading, after closing at $US 376.18, up $US2.58, at 4pm on the Nasdaq.

Tributes to Mr Jobs and his tenure began flowing in quickly after the announcement.

"I think his brilliance has been well-documented, but what gets forgotten is the bravery with which he's confronted his illness," said Howard Stringer, Sony Corp's chief executive. "For him to achieve this much success under these circumstances doubles his legacy."

Jeff Gamet, managing editor of The Mac Observer online news site focused on Apple, said Mr Jobs' departure has more sentimental than practical significance.

"All Apple really has done is made official what they've been doing administratively for a while now, which is Tim runs the show and Steve gets to do his part to make sure the products come out to meet the Apple standard,'' he said.

"I expect that even though there are a lot of people that right now are sad or scared because Steve is stepping back from the CEO role, that ultimately they'll be OK,'' Mr Gamet said. But Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research, said Mr Jobs' maniacal attention to detail is what set Apple apart. He said Apple's product pipeline might be secure for another few years, but predicted that the company will eventually struggle to come up with market-changing ideas.

"Apple is Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs is Apple, and Steve Jobs is innovation,'' Mr Chowdhry said. "You can teach people how to be operationally efficient, you can hire consultants to tell you how to do that, but God creates innovation. ... Apple without Steve Jobs is nothing.''

Mr Cook, 50, has been widely considered as the leading candidate to succeed Mr Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January. The 13-year Apple veteran, who joined the company shortly after Mr Jobs took over for the second time in 1997, has been running the day-to-day operations during this period as he has done during two prior medical leaves of absence by Mr Jobs in the last seven years.

The timing of the announcement raised questions about the health of Mr Jobs, who was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004 and underwent a liver transplant two years ago.

Mr Jobs hasn't commented on his health since he said in a letter in January that he was taking another leave of absence to "focus on my health." He made an appearance at the launch of the iPad 2 in March and Apple's annual developers' conference in June but appeared thin both times.

People familiar with the situation said that Mr Jobs has continued to be active at Apple and closely involved in the company's product strategy. To the extent his health permits, some Apple watchers think that involvement is likely to continue even after Mr Cook takes the CEO post.

Still, Mr Cook faces a big challenge in stepping into Mr Jobs' shoes because he must prove that Apple can succeed without Mr Jobs. Mr Jobs not only co-founded the company, but brought Apple back from near bankruptcy when he returned to the company in 1997. He is considered the visionary behind Apple and has played a key role in reviving the Macintosh computer business and developing new products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

"Great companies rarely go from strength to strength," said Charles O'Reilly, a management expert, at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, adding that Apple faces a particular challenge in that Mr Jobs has had an unusually strong influence in setting Apple's corporate culture and strategy.

Mr Cook, an Alabama native who previously worked for IBM and Compaq, is known as an operational genius and was instrumental in wringing out inefficiencies in Apple's manufacturing and setting up its supply chain in China. Since then, he has gradually increased his responsibilities, becoming chief operating officer in 2005.

He has also led the company during Mr Jobs's absences in the past.

Unlike Mr Jobs, who is a legendary showman, Mr Cook has tended to stay outside of the spotlight apart from quarterly earnings calls with analysts.

"I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it," Mr Jobs wrote in his letter Wednesday. "And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

"I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you," he added.

The announcement was met with little surprise on Wall Street. "This was a 'when' not 'if' moment," said Mike Binger, a fund manager for Thrivent Asset Management in Minneapolis, which owns Apple shares.

He added that he had no plans to change his holdings, saying that the stock is still "really cheap for the kind of operating fundamentals they've been putting up."

The value of the company, however, has been skyrocketing as the success of products like the iPhone, iPad and ultra-thin Macintosh computers keep setting records.

At close to $US350 billion, Apple's market valuation is second only to Exxon Mobil's, and recently eclipsing the oil giant for a brief period.

Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer for Solaris Asset Management in New York, which holds Apple shares, said he has confidence in Apple's executive team even without Mr. Jobs, but is hoping for more details on who will be Apple's "creative force" now that he is gone.

Additional reporting: AFP


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