Apple CEO Steve Jobs has announced he's taking leave of absence from the company to focus on his health. In an email sent to employees, the iconic executive explained he will remain involved in major strategic decisions, while Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook steps in to handle day-to-day operations.

Cook already handled Apple’s operations for two months in 2004, while Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery, and again for six months in 2009 when he was having a liver transplant related to complications from the pancreatic cancer. The Apple CEO did not say for how long he would be on leave but said that he hopes "to be back as soon as I can" and expressed confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans that the company has in place for 2011.

The news comes ahead of Apple's first quarter results, which are due on January 18, and as speculation continues to grow regarding the launch of the second-generation iPad. Here’s hoping for a quick return to health.