“The only thing worse than being talked about,” said Oscar Wilde, “is not being talked about.” That has until recently applied in spades to Steve Jobs of Apple, a guy who, when I’ve interviewed him, has always asked what other people have said about him, “especially the bad stuff.”
Steve is a guy who likes being talked about. He likes it so much, in fact, that he’s adopted a strategy to encourage it. This strategy involves very carefully doling-out bits of himself to the press not in an effort to discourage coverage, really, but to ENcourage it by limiting the supply. Like everything else about Steve it is brilliant and cold.
This was the case until Steve Jobs got sick, of course, at which point he went from skillfully managing the press to just as skillfully avoiding it. I wonder why? What did he have to fear about the world knowing he’d been ill? It’s probably just an artifact of his obsessive need to control.
Whatever the reason, ever since his bout with pancreatic cancer in 2004, Steve and his Apple minions have tried valiantly to keep his health condition out of the news, citing it as a “private matter.”
Except of course it isn’t a private matter at all. Steve is the CEO of Apple, Apple is an enormous publicly-held company, and many Apple investors are onboard (or remain onboard) specifically because of their confidence in Steve as a sort of high tech rainmaker. This is a concept that over time Jobs and Apple have done absolutely nothing to discourage or dispel. And so now I (and the SEC from what I hear) believe Steve and Apple have to live with it.
Steve Jobs’ health is material to Apple and to Apple shareholders. To say that having taken a six-month leave of absence changes that would be wrong. What WOULD change that would be Jobs’ resignation, which he hasn’t yet given to the Apple board. As long as Steve is still intending to return to Apple, his health is material to the company and should be disclosed.
Whatever Apple claims about privacy and however much whining and threatening Steve does to reporters by e-mail and phone, his condition remains squarely on the table, hot and steaming and ready to be served-up, as it should be.
Maybe he wants it that way. Maybe this is just more of the same limiting supply to increase demand. It’s possible but I simply don’t know.
Now look, we’re nine paragraphs into this story and I’m finally getting to the lead, which should have been in the first graf. But by now you understand why I have to do it this way, because you don’t give out unseemly news (at least I don’t give out unseemly news) without putting it in some proper context. The eight grafs above explain why I feel it is important to say that Steve Jobs has stopped using his computer.
Steve Jobs has stopped using his computer. He’s off curing himself of something he won’t name and in some manner we can’t know but I CAN tell you right now it doesn’t involve using his computer.
A friend of mine has for years been one of Steve Jobs’ Internet chat buddies. And as such his chat client has – again for years – shown as Steve came online each day and remained there for hours and hours as you’d expect a Silicon Valley mogul to do. And it’s a trend that continued well past Jobs’ announcement that he was taking a six-month leave of absence to get well. But then Steve started logging-on less and less. And several weeks ago he stopped logging-on at all.
No big deal, right? He’s off the clock; Cook and Schiller are fighting for the tiller; Apple’s in good hands; who cares?
Anyone cares who actually expects Steve Jobs to return to Apple.