As released by Apple:
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:
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 hereby resign as CEO 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 CEO 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.
A few things strike me here:
First of all, the letter is addressed “Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community” (emphasis mine), which as far as I know is unprecedented by Steve Jobs and really by Apple. Apple has never really acknowledged the community around it. In past “letters” (for example Thoughts on Flash), Steve Jobs just starts. It’s like an actor only acknowledges his audience when he comes out to take a bow to ensure they don’t remove the fourth wall.
Second, I sadly suspect this position of “Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee” is largely symbolic. From what’s known about Steve Jobs is he almost lived for this job. Stepping down is a major concession for someone so obsessive about a vision and passionate about achieving it with perfection. That said, he seemed pretty strong a few weeks ago at the Cupertino City Council, so I don’t mean to suggest he’s on his deathbed. Just unlikely to regain enough health to keep a CEO schedule. Several changes in 10.7 Lion like the odd design for Calendar and Address Book make me think he didn’t have much say in it’s design either.
Third, this succession plan is hardly shocking. Tim Cook was groomed for this a quite some time. I suspect this was known by a select few for a little while now. Jonathan Ive was long suggested as his replacement, but that seemed unlikely given he already is in charge of industrial design, and the other half of the role (the business side) he has no experience in. He’s also notably reclusive and more subtle in presentations in contrast to Steve’s “reality distortion field” persona on stage. By elevating Cook and leaving Jonathan Ive to focus on design Apple gets the best of both worlds.
Lastly, I think Colin Barrett’s tweet put my personal perspective on this best:
Indeed. Good luck Steve Jobs.