Apple boss Steve Jobs stunned Silicon Valley's IT elite last night after temporarily benching himself for health reasons.
In an email to Apple employees, Jobs said: "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.
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"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."
Speculation mounted around Jobs' health when he missed out on his widely-anticipated keynote at this year's last ever Macworld earlier in the month, citing a hormonal imbalance. In recent years he is believed to have made a full recovery after surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004.
A university drop-out, Jobs famously founded Apple in his dad's garage with his friend, Steve Wozniak. After being ousted from the firm in the 1985, he returned to the helm in 1997 when Apple bought out his development firm, NeXT and restored Apple's flagging fortunes with the phenomenally successful iPod line and a revitalised line-up of desktop and notebook PCs.
Apple said COO Tim Cook would take over the day-to-day running of the business, although it insisted Jobs would remain involved in major decisions.
Apple stock slipped 9% after the announcement.