* Jobs relinquishes CEO role to Cook, longtime No. 2
* Questions swirl over Jobs' health. He becomes chairman
* Source says Jobs spent day at HQ, will stay active
* Shares dive 7 percent in after-hours trading
(recasts 30th paragraph on Jobs' firing in 1985)
By Poornima Gupta and Edwin Chan
SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES, Aug 24 Steve Jobs
resigned as CEO of Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Wednesday and passed
the reins to his right-hand man Tim Cook, saying he could no
longer fulfill the duties in a bombshell announcement that
raised fears his health has deteriorated further.
Jobs, who fought and survived a rare form of pancreatic
cancer and revolutionized the technology arena with the iPhone
and the iPad in the past four years, is deemed the heart and
soul of a company that this month briefly became the most
valuable in America.
"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," Jobs, who takes on the new position of chairman, said in
a short letter announcing his resignation.
The letter and a separate terse, somewhat cryptic statement
from Apple raised more questions than it answered about Jobs'
health and the future of the company.
While it's unlikely that his departure as CEO will derail
Apple's ambitious product-launch roadmap in the near term,
there are concerns about whether the company would stay a
creative force to be reckoned with beyond the next year or so
without its founder and visionary at the helm.
That is why Apple's stock dropped as much as 7 percent in
after-hours trading when Jobs' departure was announced.
In the company statement, Apple co-lead director Art
Levinson on behalf of the board praised Jobs' "extraordinary
vision and leadership" and "countless contributions to Apple's
success", saying he would continue to serve the company with
"unique insights, creativity and inspiration."
However, the statement, which also talked about Cook's
outstanding performance, said nothing about Jobs' health.
His battle with pancreatic cancer, which has stretched over
several years, has been of deep concern to Apple fans,
investors and the company's board. Over the past two years,
even board members have confided to friends their concern that
Jobs, in his quest for privacy, wasn't being forthcoming with
directors about the true condition of his health.
Jobs has been on medical leave since Jan. 17, with his
duties being filled by Cook, who was chief operating officer.
Jobs spent all Wednesday meeting with board members and top
managers at Apple's headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop in
Cupertino, and plans to remain active in his new role, a source
close to Jobs told Reuters. A second source said Jobs will
remain on the board of Walt Disney Co (DIS.N).
Still, some industry insiders express concern that Jobs'
has clearly signaled he is too ill to keep up the punishing
pace of a top executive job.
The 56-year-old Jobs had briefly emerged from medical leave
in March to unveil the latest iPad and later attended a dinner
hosted by President Barack Obama for technology leaders in
Silicon Valley. But his often-gaunt appearance had sparked
questions about how bad his illness was and his ability to
continue at Apple.
In each of Jobs' three health-related absences, Cook has
taken over the helm. But the 50-year-old Alabama native, a
former Compaq executive and an acknowledged master of
supply-chain management, remains largely untested in Wall
Street's view. [ID:nN1E77N23J]
That's partly why, despite Cook being viewed as a safe bet
to run Apple's sprawling empire, some still think his boss will
be very badly missed. One Silicon Valley CEO, who declined to
be identified because of the sensitive issues involved, said
the tone of Jobs' statement indicated his health might be worse
than publicly known.
Jobs has earned a reputation for commanding every aspect of
operations - from day-to-day running to broad strategic
decisions - suggesting he would not have given up the job if he
had a choice.
"It's really sad," the CEO told Reuters. "No one is looking
at this as a business thing, but as a human thing. No one
thinks that Steve is just stepping aside because he just
doesn't want to be CEO of Apple anymore."
"It feels like another shoe is going to drop."
TAKE A LOOK [ID:nN1E77N227]
NEWSMAKER-Cook's vision at center stage [ID:nN1E77N23J]
INSTANT VIEW [ID:nN1E77N21P]
Major product launches: link.reuters.com/fet38r
Cook's impact at Apple: r.reuters.com/vuq28r
BREAKINGVIEWS-Now investors can focus [ID:nN1E77N26Q]