The news that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is stepping down from his position for health reasons has fuelled speculation that senior vice-president of design Jonathan Ive could succeed him.
Jobs, who survived pancreatic cancer four years ago and is now suffering a hormonal imbalance, is planning to take a leave of absence until June.
Chief operating officer Tim Cook will take care of the day-to-day running of the company in Jobs’ absence.
However, British-born Ive has recently taken on more public speaking duties for Apple, which may indicate that the company is preparing him for a more prominent role in the company.
At the launch of the new Macbook and Macbook Pro models in October last year, Apple broke with tradition by bringing Cook and Ive on stage with Jobs to co-present the new products.
Ive took the stage for about seven minutes to explain the design and engineering of the new laptops.
Besides Cook and Ive, Apple head of marketing Phil Schiller could also be in the running for the top job, after he gave the Macworld Expo keynote speech last week.
In an e-mail sent yesterday announcing his decision to step down, Jobs reassured employees that ‘I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out’.
The news had a negative effect on Apple’s shares, which closed at $85.33 (£58.45), down 2.71 per cent on the day.