Last Updated Aug 25, 2011 3:33 PM EDT
It's highly unlikely, though, that this was a sudden, emotional decision for Jobs. His leadership has been as calculated as it has been effective. There are a few reasons to believe that this was the perfect time for him to hang up his hat.
1. His successor: Apple COO Tim Cook, who Jobs suggested and was granted the CEO position last night, is ready for the role. While Jobs was the face of the company, Cook handled the nuts and bolts behind the major products. When Jobs went on his medical sabbatical in 2009, Cook took over in the crucial months leading up to the iPad and iPhone 4. According to VentureBeat, Apple stock went up 67 percent during Cook's tenure.
The stock market isn't happy with Jobs' departure, dropping Apple stock 5 percent last night in after-market trading. But the long-term leadership from Cook will be fine.
2. His book: Steve Jobs: An Autobiography will be out on Nov. 21. The notoriously private -- well, downright secretive -- CEO gave author Walter Isaacson lots of access to his friends, family, co-workers, and himself over the course of two years. I suspect that his ailing health -- in 2004 for pancreatic cancer and again in 2009 for a liver transplant -- made him eager to get his story down.
The book serves as the perfect swan song to his three decade career. If the biography is half as revealing as it purports to be, we will learn things about Jobs that he would only discuss after his tenure.
What's more telling is that the book was originally slated for 2012, but publisher Simon & Schuster suddenly moved up the date last month. The publishing business is notoriously slow, so it would take a near force majeure for it to release a book on time, nevertheless early. Jobs, of course, would be the act of god here, and it's no doubt his plans to resign put the book on the fast track.
3. His legacy: Aside from the iMac, iPhone, iPad, and several other devices, Jobs is at the peak of his current creativity. As Gizmodo's Brian Barrett says, Apple is coming off its strongest quarter in history and on the verge of releasing the iPhone on Sprint and/or a low-cost iPhone to the masses.
The next year will bring the iPad 3 and the iPhone 5, but probably nothing as revolutionary as their initial versions. In other words, Jobs has nothing at hand with with to top himself -- so why not get while the getting is good?
Photo courtesy of aceben