Steve Jobs’ recent resignation as CEO of Apple marks the latest chapter of his major struggle with cancer, ending his tenure at a company he indelibly shaped into a major tech power.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s CEO has long struggled with health issues, which finally took their toll with Jobs’ resignation yesterday. His letter of resignation stated he had reached the point where he could “no longer meet my duties” as the company’s leader, although the letter did not refer to specific health problems.
Jobs went on medical leave from Apple in January, and has appeared thin and frail at Apple public appearances since. Despite his health, Jobs reportedly remained involved in decision-making at the company, which launched major products such as the iPad 2 and is set to roll out the iPhone 5 this fall.
Jobs’ resignation marks the latest chapter in his long, public battle with health issues that began in October 2003. Initially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he attempted to treat the illness by switching to a special diet to avoid surgery.
The company kept Jobs’ initial illness under wraps, not disclosing his cancer until August 2004, when the then 49-year-old announced that surgery successfully removed a tumour.
But Jobs’ gaunt appearance at an iPhone launch in 2008 sparked fears of a recurrence. Throughout the year, he was beset with speculation concerning his health, prompted by his public appearances, though the CEO defended his health issues as a private matter.
The executive continually asserted at the time that he was cancer-free, even joking at an iPod event in September 2008, “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Jobs eventually attributed his increasingly thin appearance to a “hormone imbalance” in January 2009, but later that month went on a six-month medical leave, saying his health issues were “more complex” than initially believed.
“The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward,” Jobs said in an open letter. Jobs vowed to remain CEO during the leave.
During his leave, however, Jobs underwent a liver transplant at a Tennessee hospital in 2009, a procedure that leaves an average of five years’ survival for about 50 per cent of its patients, according to doctors.
Jobs has not disclosed his recent health issues, which prompted the executive to take a medical leave this January, but some medical authorities believe that they are likely not because of his recent liver transplant.
Jobs’ health has had an unusually direct impact on Apple, as the company is closely intertwined with his vision and force of personality, and news of his medical battles have caused its stock to fluctuate with investors’ nervousness.
While many believe the company will steer a steady course in the interim under the leadership of chief operating officer Tim Cook, who will likely take over the CEO role, many questions now arise about the company’s long-term strategy as its key visionary takes a reduced role at Apple as chairman.
As a leader, Jobs has likely left a strong legacy for his company to build on, but the artist’s touch that he brings to his designs and overall aesthetic sense may not be so easily duplicated. Though Jobs has attained a titan-like status as the leader of Apple, like every human being, he contends with a mortality whose presence has been sharpened with a long struggle with illness.