I’m not the only Mac user and Apple follower to notice that Steve Jobs did not look healthy during his keynote presentation at WWDC ‘08. Jobs appeared gaunt, tired, listless, thin, and positively unhealthy; almost the opposite of the vibrant, self-assured chief executive of Silicon Valley’s hottest major tech company.
Steve Jobs is not a behind the scenes player. He’s a dynamic and engaging leader, co-founder and head of Apple, Inc.
Though he trots himself out for public viewing multiple times during the course of a year, Macworld and Apple’s WWDC are major public viewing events designed to inspire the Mac and Apple faithful, attract new customers, and launch new products.
In recent years, especially since the pancreatic cancer scare a few years ago, the vegan Steve Jobs has not looked, well, healthy during his diminished part of the typical two hour keynote presentations.
Relative to many CEO’s, Steve Jobs is young. He co-founded Apple in the 1970s barely out of his teenage years. Jobs eventually was forced out of Apple, started NeXT (the precursor to OS X) Computer, bought Pixar Studios, and nearly lost his fortune through the years.
Fate can be harsh. Fate can be kind. Fate smiled on Steve Jobs. Apple bought NeXT and brought Steve Jobs home. Though many people are involved in any major company turn around, Jobs gets the credit, and deservedly so.
Disney bought Pixar which made Jobs a billionaire. Along the way he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, often a fatal disease. Fate smiled again and Jobs survived. Apple survived. Both prospered.
What is a healthy Steve Jobs worth to Apple? Tens of billions of dollars in market value.
If Jobs dies or leaves the company, Apple will continue. The current leadership team is solid, dependable, smart, and has a measure of longevity that truly benefits Apple’s management, Apple’s customers, Apple’s stock price.
Therein is the rub.
Steve Jobs is tied up in the leadership role like no other chief executive of a major technology and consumer products company. Who misses Bill Gates at Microsoft? Who would miss CEO Steve Ballmer if he decided to retire?
But Steve Jobs?
He truly leads Apple’s 21st century revolution with his sense of design and style, his business acumen and discipline, his vision. It can be argued that wither Jobs goes, Apple goes. At least for awhile.
A Death Watch?
I do not wish to sound an alarm so much as to alert others to what I see—an unhealthy looking Steve Jobs, leading his company at a critical juncture in technogadget history.
I do not wish this missive to be a morbid view of Apple’s future life without Jobs, or the start of a vulture-like watch which agonizes over every public appearance of Apple’s co-founder and CEO.
I do wish to state the obvious. Steve Jobs does not look well and that is not good for Apple.
His brush with cancer should tell us that every beloved leader is vulnerable to the ravages of humanity, but that Apple’s fortunes are perhaps too intertwined with Jobs’ health.
A healthy Jobs means a healthy Apple. An unhealthy Jobs can, no, will have an adverse effect on Apple’s stock price, perhaps Apple’s future.
The Official Word
Apple, officially and unofficially, says Steve Jobs is fine and merely suffering from a ‘common bug’.
I suffered recently from an ‘uncommon bug’ for two weeks and still looked better than Steve during his recent presentation.
My official word is that I am healthy and doing well, recuperating a bit slowly, of course; I’m older, recover more slowly. But I’m not the head of a company worth billions of dollars with tens of millions of customers.
We wish Steve well. We want him to be healthy for all the humanitarian reasons we can muster.
For AAPL stockholders, though, and to an extent for the company’s customers and followers, Apple needs to ensure the accrued value of the company remains and prospers with an executive successor plan that is public, obvious, acceptable.