Bad news for Apple (Updated x5)

steveSteve Jobs is taking a leave of absence for medical reasons through June. This could be the biggest technology story of the year.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs today sent the following email to all Apple employees:

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

This will lead to: (i) a hit to the stock price and (ii) possibly claims that Apple and/or Steve Jobs failed to fully disclose materials risks to the company caused by Steve’s health issues. However, I continue to believe that Apple is fundamentally sound with great products, momentum in the marketplace and ample internal talent to carry on without Jobs. This is my opinion only, I have no inside information, and, in the interests of disclosure, be aware that I am long in Apple.

Update: Tim Cook is taking over for the interim, as noted above. Macworld has a good profile of him.

Update 2: Robert Scoble has some good advice.

Update 3: Talk about claims against Apple is already appearing. And here as well.

Update 4: Video report from CNET below.

Update 5: Video report from the WSJ below.