Apple's Jobs takes medical leave; Cook in charge with iPad 2, iPhone 5 in wings

Steve Jobs asks Apple board for leave so he can focus on his health

Almost two years after taking a medical leave of absence, Apple CEO Steve Jobs Monday announced he’s taking another one.

In a six-sentence statement issued by Apple early this morning, Jobs says he is taking leave to "focus on my health." The statement gave no details of the health issues prompting the decision.

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COO Tim Cook will take over management of all of Apple’s day to day operations, as he did in early 2009 when Jobs took medical leave. During that six-month period, Jobs underwent a liver transplant. . Jobs remains officially Apple’s CEO, and will "be involved in major strategic decisions for the company," according to today’s statement.

Apple has another big year on tap, with a possible iPad 2 and iPhone 5 on the way.

The Apple press release gives no real indication of how long Jobs’ absence will be. But one sentence could be interpreted as suggesting it might be for the balance of 2011: "I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011," Jobs wrote.

Cook should be up for handling the challenge. After all, his total compensation in fiscal 2010 was about $59 million (Jobs took a $1 salary.).

Jobs says he requested from the board of directors a medical leave "so I can focus on my health."

"I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can," Jobs concluded. "In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy."

He’s unlikely to get it. Jobs’ previous health struggles sparked waves of Internet and industry comment. His obvious weight loss during 2008 fueled speculation about its causes, leading to a decline in Apple’s stock price.   At one point, Apple said it was due to a "common bug" but in January 2009, Jobs himself revealed that it was due to a "hormone imbalance." At that point, he took a leave of absence and it was later revealed he received a liver transplant. He returned to work in June 2009.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World." You can follow him on Twitter here.

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