At its first regularly scheduled meeting last week, Apple's new board of directors formalized the role of Jobs by naming him interim chief executive of the company until a new CEO is named. Jobs returned to Apple late last year in an advisory capacity to build a new operating system for the Mac, after it bought another company he had founded, Next Software.
The board also met with its executive recruiter, John Thompson of Heidrick & Struggles, to review the status of its search for a CEO. The board expects that a new CEO will be named before the end of the year.
But if and when the company fills the position, many analysts expect there to be some tension between the new CEO and Jobs, a man never known for his managerial subtleties.
"There is speculation that whoever gets in there will be second-guessed on a daily basis by Steve Jobs," J.P. Morgan analyst Daniel Kunstler told CNET's NEWS.COM in an interview last week. "I hope that doesn't happen. Apple doesn't need a figurehead, it needs a CEO. And Steve Jobs knows that."
Still, others say it may be difficult for Jobs to share the spotlight with anyone.
"He will remain the center of attention," said Stephen Dube, an analyst with Wasserstein Perella Securities. Dube noted that good candidates considered a few months ago for the CEO slot probably are no longer interested because many big decisions already have been resolved.
"The moves that Steve Jobs has made [ for the company would make this] a difficult job for anybody. We have already seen the Apple position on licensing and the decision to not spin off the Newton division. A new CEO won't be making those decisions, and those are the issues that would fall in the lap of a new CEO," said Dube. "The new CEO is now boxed in" to the new direction for the company, he added.
Officially, Apple played down the significance of the appointment, saying that it simply formalizes what Jobs has already been doing.
Jobs had declined to take the post of chairman and chief executive in July in favor of retaining his position at the head of Pixar Animation Studios. He was then named to the board, along with a handful of other technology executives.
New board members include Larry Ellison, Oracle chairman and CEO; Jerry York, former CFO of IBM and Chrysler; Bill Campbell, CEO of Intuit; and Jobs himself. They join two executives remaining from the previous regime: Edgar Woolard, chairman and former CEO of Dupont, and Gareth Chang, president of Hughes International. The company has authorized a total of nine board seats; directors receive stock options, but no cash compensation for their service.
The new board members replace departing members Mike Markkula, Katherine Hudson, Bernard Goldstein, Delano Lewis, and former CEO Gilbert Amelio.
Jobs, Apple's cofounder and newly appointed member of the board, has been serving as an adviser to Apple's Board and executive management team for several months.