Apple's Jobs Take Medical Leave

Apple CEO Steve Jobs says he is taking a medical leaver of absence until the end of June. The cancer survivor said his health issues are more complex than he thought. Apple COO Tim Cook will take over Jobs' work while he is on leave.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, has announced that he's going to take a leave of absence. It's a medical leave. Jobs is a survivor of pancreatic cancer. He sent a memo to employees today saying his current health problems are more complex than he had originally thought. Today's news is renewing questions about the future of Apple's leadership, and NPR's Laura Sydell joins us to talk about that from San Francisco.

Laura, first, tell us more about this memo from Steve Jobs today.

LAURA SYDELL: It was a short memo, and basically, he said he wants to take the limelight off his health. He'll be back in June, and he says he'll remain involved with strategic decisions for the company.

BLOCK: And take the limelight off of his health? This has been a big issue in recent days and going back some time.

SYDELL: Yeah, he has had pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with it in 2004. He was treated for it. He seemed to be doing well. Our science reporter, Richard Knox, says that, basically, the type he has is a recurring problem, but it can be managed. So, experts believe, you know, it's not clear because they haven't examined him, but they believe that what he has is treatable, and that what's happening to him right now, in fact, is not completely unpredictable.

BLOCK: Right, and he was seen, though, looking very thin, and he explained that by saying he had a hormone imbalance. Now, unclear exactly what's going on.

SYDELL: It is unclear because this is what he tells us, but again, that would be something that could in fact happen with the type of pancreatic cancer that he has.

BLOCK: Steve Jobs, of course, very closely identified with Apple and its success. What do you think this will do to the perceptions of Apple?

SYDELL: Well, every time he gets sick, the stock price goes down - as it did, again, today. Jobs is so closely identified - he may be one of the few CEOs, maybe the other one is Bill Gates, who really is completely identified with his company. After leaving the company, he returned in 1997, and he pretty much brought it back from the brink.

I mean, most notably under his direction, the iPod was created and the iPhone. And Apple created this complete system with the iTunes store, which is now the number one music retailer and of course, now the iPhone. And Apple computers now have 10 percent of the market. All of this happened under his watch.

BLOCK: Steve Jobs, just 53 years old, and as we said, expects to be back at work in June, but lots of questions being raised about the future of Apple, eventually, without Steve Jobs, what that would look like.

SYDELL: Well, that is a billion-dollar question, really, literally. The management that is there now was hand picked by him and trained by him. So, there's certainly a sense that if he doesn't come back, you know - if he really does come back in June, you would think these people could handle it. I mean, they're people like Jonathan Ives, and he's the industrial designer who's behind the iPod, the iPhone, the PowerBook and the Mac Pro. Tim Cook, the guy who's going to be in charge while Steve's away, has been working very closely with him for the last three years.

That said, if you talk to anybody inside Apple, it's a very top down organization. Pretty much every decision goes through Steve Jobs. So in the long term, I think that is a question. This is a guy who really has a handle on the market in a way very few people have.

BLOCK: OK, Laura, thanks so much.

SYDELL: You're quite welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Laura Sydell in San Francisco talking about news that Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence from Apple until June.

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