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Apple's Steve Jobs to take medical leave [Updated]

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is taking a second medical leave -- the first was two years ago when he underwent a liver transplant during a six-month hiatus -- and the news sent the company's high-flying stock into a dive in overseas trading.

Jobs, who previously battled pancreatic cancer, has again handed Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook the day-to-day reins at Apple. The news sent Apple shares down 7.6% in trading in Frankfurt. Monday was a holiday in the United States, and the markets were closed there.

Jobs Jobs, who co-founded Apple in 1976, said in a memo to staff that he would continue to be Apple's CEO and would take part in major strategic decisions.

"At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health," Jobs, 55, wrote. "I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can."

This is the third time in the last decade that Jobs has reduced his role at Apple because of his health. He also took medical leave in 2004.

Jobs is critical to Apple. He is deeply enmeshed in the company's business, making key product decisions. The chief executive is inextricably linked to the company, credited with reviving its flagging fortunes in 1996 when he returned after a 12-year hiatus. He oversaw hit products such as the iMac and, more recently, the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

The announcement came as a surprise and was bound to rattle investors who attribute Apple's soaring success as a consumer-electronics giant to Jobs. His absence will not be a major concern with such strong momentum and product line in the pipeline for the next few years, but if the absence is prolonged, it could deflate the stock. Apple is set to report quarterly earnings on Tuesday.

Investors also have had confidence in the past in the stewardship of Cook, 50, known as the executive who makes Apple's trains run efficiently and on time. Cook joined Apple in 1998 and stepped in for Jobs during both of his leaves of absence.

Questions about Jobs' health have peppered the company for years, with some analysts and investors criticizing Apple for not making more information available.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

[Updated, 8:30 a.m.: Another major concern: the lack of succession planning at Apple, said IDC analyst Al Hilwa.

"Obviously the company is a lot more than Steve Jobs; it's a sizable franchise that can go on without him for a while," Hilwa said. "But the company still very much revolves around Steve Jobs, and we are going to see some fall back from that in the stock market. They will have to show several quarters of execution without him to comfort the market that they can do all right without him. He has been involved in such detailed work in everything at the company, you really wonder how they can get by and make decisions without him."

The Wall Street Journal reported the news earlier.]

RELATED:

Having Apple run smoothly nothing new to Jobs' stand-in Tim Cook

The prognosis for Apple's Steve Jobs: Continuing conjecture

Photos: Steve Jobs and Apple's influence

-- Jessica Guynn 

Photo: Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs on June 7, 2010. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

 
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