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Article from SFGate.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic co-founder and the visionary behind many of its best-selling products, resigned as CEO on Wednesday, saying he could no longer fulfill his duties.

Jobs, who underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and had a liver transplant in 2009, has been on medical leave from Apple since January. His resignation raised new fears that his health may have worsened.

“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,” Jobs, 56, wrote in a letter to Apple’s board. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”

After Jobs submitted his resignation, Apple’s directors elected him to the board and made him chairman. Tim Cook, the company’s chief operating officer and its interim leader since January, was named CEO.

As evidence of Jobs’ perceived value to the company, Apple stock dropped 5 percent in after-hours trading, to $357.10.

Founded in 1976 in Cupertino by Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple helped spur the rise of personal computing with its Apple II and Macintosh computers. After being ousted from the company in 1985, Jobs returned to a near-bankrupt Apple in 1997 and spearheaded the creation of blockbuster devices like the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Pop culture figure

Along the way, Jobs became a figure in popular culture, sought after for his insights into consumer desires and a marketing savvy that made him an unofficial evangelist of the digital age. A noted perfectionist, he is credited with having an impeccable sense of design, leading to products that have inspired devotion among users and generated hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for the company.

As a result, Apple has become the rare company to successfully reinvent itself multiple times. Roughly two-thirds of the company’s profits now come from devices that didn’t exist five years ago. This summer, for the first time, Apple briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the world’s most valuable company. It is currently No. 2.

“Steve Jobs is the greatest leader our industry has ever known,” said Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff, who worked under Jobs at Apple, in an e-mail. “It’s the end of an era.”

Analysts said that few changes in Apple’s business will be evident right away.

“The actual product road map that Steve has already approved goes through 2015,” said Tim Bajarin, president of research firm Creative Strategies, who has followed Apple for 30 years. “In the short term, it should mean nothing. Even though Steve is critical for a lot of the vision, let’s keep in mind that he’s still alive and still chairman. He can still influence vision.”

During his most recent medical leave, Jobs has continued to make appearances at Apple events. In March he took the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to unveil the iPad 2, and in June he appeared at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference at Moscone Center to announce the coming iCloud service.

“In his new role as chairman of the board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration,” said Apple board member Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech, in a statement.

Long-term prospects

Still, questions linger about Apple’s long-term success. Sachin Agarwal, who worked at Apple as a developer for video-editing software Final Cut Pro from 2002 to 2008, said one of Jobs’ greatest assets was his willingness to say no – to delay or even abandon products that failed to meet his exacting standards.

Agarwal, who has since created the blogging and publishing platform Posterous, said friends at Apple have expressed concerns about the company’s future.

“I just don’t think anyone else in the company has shown, at least outwardly, that level of pushback and that quality standard,” he said, referring to Jobs. “I’m chatting with my Apple friends and there’s a lot of thought about it right now: ‘What do we do with our stock? What’s the company going to look like?’ ”

The attention now shifts to Cook, 50, who joined Apple in 1998. The Alabama native, who had previously worked at Compaq, quickly gained a reputation for being an operational genius – ensuring that the company made only as many products as it could sell, which made its supply chain the envy of the industry.

“The board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO,” Levinson said. “Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.”

Jobs also struck an optimistic note.

“I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it,” he wrote in his letter to the board. “And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”

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