Steve Jobs, the iconic founder and creative force of Apple Inc., has stepped down as Chief Executive Officer and will assume the role of Chairman of the Board.

Jobs submitted his resignation during a Wednesday meeting of Apple's Board of Directors and suggested that the board named Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook his successor, according to a press release. Cook will now join the board, effective immediately.

Steve's extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world's most innovative and valuable technology company, Art Levinson, Chairman of Genentech, said on behalf of Apple's Board, in the press release. Steve has made countless contributions to Apple's success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple's immensely creative employees and world class executive team. In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.

The Board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO, added Levinson. Tim's 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.

Jobs' deteriorating health has generated intense speculation about what will happen to Apple once its founder steps down, and this news appears to usher in a new era for the company. The text of Jobs' resignation letter follows, courtesy of NPR:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. 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.

Steve