Steve Jobs Stepping Down As Apple CEO

Steve Jobs, the co-founder, CEO and public face of Apple, announced on Wednesday that he is leaving his position atop the computer and personal electronics giant.

In a letter released late this afternoon, Jobs writes:

I have always said 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. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as C.E.O. of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as C.E.O. of Apple.

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.

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.

Steve

The 56-year-old Jobs has been fighting pancreatic cancer for the better part of the last decade and had been on medical leave since January when the news was made public.

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.”

In the 1980s, Jobs left the computer company he had helped bring to national prominence. He would return to the company as interim CEO in the late ’90s after success with Pixar animation studio, including the film Toy Story.

During his time back atop the company’s org chart, it revolutionized personal music players with the iPod and iTunes store, made the wildly successful iPhone smartphones and has so far dominated the tablet market with the iPad.

Jobs’ decision comes as Apple is reportedly set to release the latest version of the iPhone — rumored to be made available for the first time to Sprint customers — along with a cheaper version of the iPhone 4 targeted to customers in emerging markets. Recent reports also claim that the iPad 3 is set to be released in early 2012.