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Steve Jobs takes 'medical leave of absence' until the end of June

CNBC is reporting that Steve Jobs' health situation is "more serious" than previously thought, and Steve Jobs announced he is taking a "medical leave of absence" in a letter to Apple employees. He anticipates returning in July.

Tim Cook, Chief Operating Officer, is taking over day-to-day operations of Apple, Inc. in the meantime. In his letter, Jobs says the board supports this plan, and that he will be involved in major decisions even though he is out of the office.

Cook took the reins at Apple for a month in 2004, while Jobs had surgery for pancreatic cancer, the disease that could be contributing to his health problems today.

Jobs released a letter the day before Macworld Expo detailing a "hormone imbalance" that he said would be treatable with an adjusted diet. His health concerns apparently became a distraction to himself and Apple employees, so he chose to take a six-month medical leave of absence.

CNBC analyst Jim Goldman said his sources inside Apple told him that "Steve Jobs is in serious denial" about the state of his health. BusinessWeek's Arik Hesseldahl said on CNBC that although this is a surprise announcement, he took a milder tone, and doesn't think this is a resurgence of Jobs' pancreatic cancer, which Jobs said he beat.

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster said on CNBC's Fast Money program that while Tim Cook is a solid choice to lead in the interim, "replacing the magic of Steve Jobs is impossible." Even so, Munster considers this a buying opportunity for Apple stock.

Apple stock trading was halted until 5 p.m. Eastern time. In early trades since the stock re-opened, AAPL's price is down by about $10.

Read on to see the full text of Jobs' letter.

Team,

I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple's day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.

Steve

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