The rumors have been flying around the Net for about nine months regarding Apple CEO Steve Jobs‘ health and his role moving forward as the figurehead and leader of the company. Which rumors aren’t rumors, but facts? What do we know moving forward and how do they affect Apple as an organization? What can the Apple community at large expect from the company? This article hopes to answer some of these tough questions.
For the last nine months, Apple has refused to give any specifics about the well-being of Jobs. It was announced in February that Jobs was taking a six month leave of absence to deal with his health issues without disclosing what they might be. In the recent annual shareholder meeting conducted by COO Tim Cook, the company responded to rumors by saying that Jobs still plans to return to the company in June and he continues to be involved in strategic matters.
Jobs underwent surgery in 2004 for pancreatic cancer and during his final public appearances, the executive showed up extremely thin. The rumors then started flying, all of which have been denied by Jobs and Apple’s Public Relations Department. What had been disclosed on January 5th was that Jobs was withdrawing from day-to-day operations at Apple in order to take care of his health problems stemming from a hormone imbalance that has been robbing him of proteins needed to stay healthy. On January 14th, it was revealed that Jobs would be stepping away from his regular duties in order to deal with a health problem that turned out to be more “complex” than the hormone imbalance.
At the board meeting, shareholders approved the re-election of the eight member Board, which includes Jobs, Al Gore, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The problem for the Securities and Exchange Commission has been the way that Apple has gone about reporting Jobs’ health status to shareholders. The most recent report from Apple on February 25th remained the same: Jobs is involved in strategic decisions and plans to return from his medical leave as scheduled.
Given the economic downturn and Apple’s stock price fluctuations based on Jobs’ health reports, the company has plenty of work ahead of it to maintain shareholder satisfaction and continue to gain ground in the marketplace. Apple is uniquely threatened by the downturn in the economy because of the luxury aspect of the products it manufactures. On top of this, the recent increase in market share Apple has received has been because of its successful campaign to show off OSX and Leopard’s stability compared to the failed Microsoft Windows Vista. However, Microsoft has released a beta of the upcoming Windows 7 operating system which has received rave reviews from tech e-zines from around the Net. Other vendors such as Palm and Google are introducing new products aimed directly at the popular iPhone.
Given these new challenges slated for release in 2009, Apple shareholders are more concerned than they have been in years, compounded by the fact that Jobs has stepped aside in this economic climate. There are tons of rumors around the tech circuit regarding new lines of Apple value-priced hardware, like a $99 iPhone and a sub-$500 “netbook” version of the MacBook; both have been denied by Apple as being in the works.
A comeback for Steve Jobs would be a welcome sight for consumers and shareholders. Jobs’ success as a CEO has been marked by his creative vision, ability to break into new avenues, and awareness of the entire consumer experience. To many, Jobs is an irreplaceable CEO. His famed ability for becoming personally involved in critical steps in the company’s operations has earned him the reputation as being a brilliant front man. It’s doubtful that anyone could possibly pitch Apple’s products like he can.
For now, Apple users will simply have to wait until June to hear about any new changes to the Mac lineup, any new innovative products we’ve never seen before, or upgrades to current products like AppleTV.