Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm.

Apple’s board is planning for the post-Steve Jobs era

The WSJ’s Yukari Iwatani Kane, Joann Lublin, and Nick Wingfield report:

Since Steve Jobs went on medical leave this winter, some members of Apple Inc.’s board have discussed CEO succession with executive recruiters and at least one head of a high-profile technology company, according to people familiar with the matter.

The conversations weren’t explicitly aimed at recruiting a new chief executive and were more of an informal exploration of the company’s options, said these people. [...]

In response to questions from The Wall Street Journal about the discussions, Mr. Jobs said Monday in an email, “I think it’s hogwash.”

Given Jobs’ health history, this makes sense.

It would be very surprising if Apple COO Tim Cook, who has been running the company’s day-to-day operations, isn’t offered the CEO job when Steve eventually retires. The only way I could see someone else becoming CEO of Apple is if Tim doesn’t want the job.

Still, it’s not crazy to check around. And now the biggest question in Silicon Valley is: Who’s the “head of a high-profile technology company” that Apple’s directors have talked with? Larry Ellison? Mark Zuckerberg?

We’ll see if any Wall Street analysts ask about this on tonight’s Apple earnings call. Apple is unlikely to say anything substantive in response, though.