Declining to comment
When Jobs announced this January 5th that he had a "hormonal imbalance" that was causing him to lose weight, speculation about his health heated up. Rumors swirled about whether his tumor had indeed returned - but the deeply private Jobs declined to confirm or deny them.
In his January statement, Jobs said "The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment." This assurance did little to calm talk of Apple's succession plans, which had begun to heat up after Apple's announcement on December 16th that Apple's SVP for marketing, Phil Shiller, would take Jobs's keynote position at the upcoming Macworld Expo.
Today's message from Jobs that he is taking a medical leave of absence is sure to generate a tsunami of punditry.
One thing is inarguable, however: Steve Jobs is an iconic figure, a leader with uncommon gifts of persuasion, and a man that inspires passionate feelings - both for him and against him.
He's widely regarded to be the singular heart and soul of Apple, despite the fact that he has surrounded himself with a highly talented crew of engineers and designers that he regularly - and, it appears, sincerely - thanks at every product-announcement presentation.
His departure from Apple would deprive the company of a man who is deeply involved with both strategic and tactical decision-making. Although Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about its internal workings, rumors abound of Jobs inserting himself into seemingly minor details of product design and development.
He is known as a man who is blunt, acerbic - and usually right.
Some analysts have estimated that Jobs's departure from Apple would lower the company's value by 20 per cent or more - an estimate bolstered by the dive its stock price took today, immediately after the leave-of-absence announcement.
Should that leave become permanent - when that leave becomes permanent - we'll learn more about the company's resilience, measured both by investors' confidence and by the ability of the Apple team to continue innovating in a Jobs-less era.
The most-pressing question is when that transition will take place. Weeks? Months? Years?
Only one man knows - or may know - and it's becoming unsettlingly clear that he may not be providing his constituency with full details.
Apple investors deserve to know. Apple devotees want to know. Apple workers have the right to know.
Come clean, Steve. How bad is it?