Steve Jobs Resigns, Tim Cook Becomes Apple's CEO

Apple CEO Steve Jobs stepped down Wednesday, in a poignant letter to his board. Jobs has been battling cancer for some years. He will continue as chairman of the board.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, host:

And I'm David Greene. There is a lot of speculation today about the future of Apple. Yesterday, CEO Steve Jobs resigned. Jobs has been struggling with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. It's hard to think of another person who's shaped our relationship with technology more completely than Steve Jobs.

Even if you don't have an Apple product, the computer or phone that you do have is likely to have been designed in response to the Macintosh, or perhaps the iPhone, and it has been Steve Jobs personally who's introduced Apple's new products.

(Soundbite of archived recordings)

Mr. STEVE JOBS (Former CEO, Apple): Today I'm incredibly please to introduce iMac...iPod is an MP3 music player.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. JOBS: iPhone...

(Soundbite of cheering)

Mr. JOBS: Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone...

And we call it the iPad.

(Soundbite of applause)

GREENE: Joining us to talk now about Steve Jobs' departure and what it might mean for Apple is NPR's Laura Sydell. Good morning, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL: Good morning.

GREENE: So Jobs offers his resignation in a letter. Tell us what he had to say.

SYDELL: It was actually a very sad letter. Jobs wrote that he always said that if there came a day when he could no longer meet his duties and the expectations as Apple's CEO, he said I would be the first to let you know, and he went on and said unfortunately that day has come.

Some of my sources inside Apple say they weren't surprised when the announcement came because even though he has been out on sick leave, at other times he would show up, he'd be around, he hasn't been around at all apparently in recent weeks.

Folks there have been pretty much told to carry on and not speculate too much. In his letter he advised the board to make Tim Cook the new CEO, and they have followed his advice.

GREENE: And what do we know about Tim Cook?

SYDELL: Well, he's been at the company over 12 years, and he became the chief operating officer back in 2004. In recent years, Jobs has taken several medical leaves to deal with the pancreatic cancer, and Cook has run the company, and in 2009, under Cook's leadership, when Jobs was out, the company did incredibly well. It had two stellar quarters. So he's done a good job when Jobs hasn't been there.

He's a logistics guy. So Cook is the one who's done things like develop a more efficient supply chain for Apple products. He's known to be a very calm guy, which is actually really good, I'm told, for working with Steve Jobs, who actually is a very temperamental personality.

GREENE: Well, you say Steve Jobs hasn't been seen around the company recently, but he really has been the face of Apple. I mean, everyone knows his black turtleneck and the blue jeans when we see the announcements on television. And personality is so important in business. I mean, can Tim Cook really fill those shoes?

SYDELL: You know, the truth is, I don't know that anybody can fill Steve Jobs' shoes. Steve Jobs may be one of the greatest CEOs to have ever lived. I mean, he's just - he's amazing. He's charismatic, he's done incredible things, he took Apple from the brink of bankruptcy and brought it back, and has turned it into one of the most valuable companies in the world.

But here's the thing about Tim Cook. He's actually part of a hand-picked team that Steve Jobs has developed himself. So it's not him alone. It's Jony Ive, who's head of the design team and is responsible for many of these beautiful designs that we see on Apple products; Phil Schiller who heads marketing, and apparently Schiller is the one who was down yesterday talking to everybody and read Steve Jobs' letter to the staff there.

And right now Apple's got a line of products going through 2015. So they're set up, and hopefully this team will be able to carry through. And remember, Steve isn't exactly leaving. He's no longer the CEO. He will be chair of the board, so chances are he'll still be involved. Apparently he talks to Tim Cook every day and we'll see how that goes.

He's traditionally been a very hands-on CEO. This is going to be a very different kind of role for him, but fill his shoes? I don't know that anybody can do that.

GREENE: And we should say that Apple's not just a gadget company. I mean, we all know they run iTunes, which is the biggest music retailer in the country. You say their long-term plan's already in place that Steve Jobs has laid out, but can a program like that really run on autopilot?

SYDELL: Well, you know, he was back. In June he actually made an announcement that there will be a new what will be called Cloud Storage for iTunes. What this means is essentially you'll be able to store your music and your movies online and access them from anywhere. So yes, there seems to be a plan moving forward.

But here's the thing about Steve Jobs. This is the guy who took all of the record companies who were afraid of the digital space, he got them all together and got them to join up on iTunes. And he's probably been working as well with some of the film companies and the other content providers. As we move forward in this space, as more and more people go to the Web, go online for their movies, their film, their music, it's getting more and more competitive.

So down the line, if we don't have a Steve Jobs to go and to talk to the content providers, someone who has his charisma, it's hard to say where all that's gonna go. It's gonna be a very rapidly changing universe, and whether there's someone inside Apple who can navigate those waters, I don't know.

GREENE: Laura, thank you.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

GREENE: That's NPR's Laura Sydell in San Francisco.

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