The Martin Luther King holiday isn’t usually a time of big tech announcements, but a brief email sent to employees by Apple CEO Steve Jobs yesterday set the tech industry abuzz.
“At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company ….”
Jobs said in a brief email that also said COO Tim Cook would be responsible for all of Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) day to day operations. Cook filled in the last time Jobs took extended medical leave in 2009 following a liver transplant.
But unlike last time when Jobs was able to meet his own projection that he’d be out about six months, this time he gave no timetable.
“I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy,” said Jobs.
Apple is set to deliver quarterly earnings later today and company officials, including Cook, will likely be asked about operational and product plans in a call with financial analysts.
The consensus among many analysts in reports today is that the impact near term will be minimal because Apple has products in the pipeline for the next few years.
“Don’t forget, they started development on the iPad back in 2004,” Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com. “They actually have products in the pipeline ready to come through over the next two years at a minimum.”
Bajarin also notes that Apple is different than other tech companies in that “they don’t develop products based on a knee jerk reaction to what competitors are doing.”
“Apple’s almost like a machine now. They have great industrial design, but it’s all about finding new digital screens to give greater access to their software, services and operating system,” he said. “Now those screens are the Mac, the iPhone and iPad and they are trying to extend that to the television.”
Cook more than proved himself in his previous tenure as acting CEO and if Jobs needs to be out for an extended period Bajarin said he’d be shocked if the company brought in anyone from the outside to run things. “The important thing is that the person who runs Apple’s has to understand the company, the culture and the management style that works,” he said. “Tim Cook is the one guy who fits that bill.”
David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.