Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple Inc. resigned on Thursday, saying in a letter that he could no longer fulfill his duties as the leader of the company he co-founded.

Jobs is succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who led the company since Jobs stepped aside on medical leave (Jobs was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004 and underwent a liver transplant two years ago) earlier this year. Despite the leave, Jobs made appearances at the iPad 2 launch event (March 2), the WWDC keynote introducing iCloud (June 6), and before the Cupertino city council (June 7). Mr.Cook faces a big challenge in stepping into Mr.Jobs’s shoes because he must prove that Apple can succeed without Mr.Jobs.

“I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it,” Jobs wrote in a letter to Apple’s board of directors. “And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”

“I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you,” he added.

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