Apple has issued a statement saying that Steve Jobs is taking a leave of absence due to health reasons. Steve Jobs sent out a letter to Apple employees today saying that his previously-explained health problems are "more complex" than he at first thought, and that he plans to return in June. In the meantime Steve will be around for major strategic decisions, and Tim Cook (Apple's Chief Operating Officer) will take over the day-to-day in his absence. AAPL is down around 8% in after hours trading. The full letter is below:

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 honestly comes as quite a surprise, especially given that Jobs just recently issued that note which seemed to be aimed at quelling fears of this exact situation bubbling up. In that letter -- sent just last week -- Jobs stated that a hormone imbalance was to cause for a recent noticeable weight loss, but that the ailment was being treated in a "relatively simple and straightforward" manner. This clearly calls that info out, and raises a number of questions about whether or not Apple and Jobs knew there was something more serious happening. Of course, this story puts the latest exclamation mark in a sentence strewn with flare-ups of news over Jobs' health which began with his gaunt appearance at last year's WWDC. Though Jobs battled pancreatic cancer in 2004, as far as we know he has been free of the disease since a complicated surgery known as the "whipple procedure," and this latest statement makes no connection otherwise.

One note of interest is that this isn't the first time Tim Cook has taken the reins at Apple. He held the spot in 2004 while Jobs was treated for and recovered from the aforementioned cancer.

Whatever the current case may be, here's hoping Jobs has a speedy recovery -- though what Apple's future looks like after this is anyone's guess.

Here's a quick little gallery of Steve Jobs' progression over the past three WWDCs:
Gallery | 10 Photos

Steve Jobs at WWDC '06, '07 and '08