Time to End the Steve Jobs Death Watch!

October 5th, 2006

Ever since Steve Jobs dodged a bullet when he contracted cancer, some people have been literally waiting for him to die, or display evidence that he is still seriously ill. This is a morbid thought, and one I hate to talk about, but it’s true.

Take the WWDC keynote, in which Jobs played the role of host, but not the main presenter. Instead, three key members of his staff did much of the heavy lifting. Some folks decided that Jobs must be ill. In fact a few claimed he looked gaunt, although he seemed perfectly fine to me.

How did I know? Well, I saw in front of the stage shortly before the keynote, talking to someone in an animated fashion. I did not notice anything that would indicate illness from my fifth row berth. Of course, I might as well admit that I once saw Steve Jobs sneeze, back in 2001 at the rollout of Mac OS X. Others might find something significant in the fact that he is clearly human. Oh well.

Regardless, speculation has persisted about Apple’s plans for succession. If the present CEO is disabled, dies or simply quits or retires, is a replacement ready to take over? Were there three executives who made presentations at the WWDC actually auditioning to become the new Apple CEO?

A less conspiratorial explanation was simply that WWDC is an event for developers, not consumers. While the world was watching the keynote, the rest of the sessions are held in private, and developers sign confidentiality agreements to participate.

Come September, and Steve was back in full form extolling the virtues of the new version of iTunes, the updated line of iPods and that forthcoming digital hub device, known for now as iTV. You heard nothing more about the state of his health, how much weight he might have lost, the alleged drawn look on his face.

Then again maybe it was that probe into backdated stock options that Apple has confronted in recent months. Some suggested that was the reason Jobs seemed worried and that it affected his legendary “reality distortion field,” his incredible salesmanship. What if Jobs was forced to resign because of possible involvement in this scandal. Would he have to face charges by the SEC too?

In any case, it appears that Jobs will escape the worst consequences of that alleged financial mismanagement. Former Apple CFO Fred Anderson has already taken the fall, and announced his resignation from Apple’s board of directors.

As to Jobs, the official statement has it that he had some knowledge of what was going on, but was unaware of the accounting implications.

Jobs has been appropriately contrite about it all, however. In a statement, he says, “I apologize to Apple’s shareholders and employees for these problems, which happened on my watch. They are completely out of character for Apple.”

I suppose it’s possible Jobs will still face additional consequences for what happened, but the possibilities aren’t very likely. He has dodged another bullet.

It’s also high time for this awful death watch to end. While it is certain that Jobs is the visionary that guides the ship over at Apple, there are thousands and thousands of employees who truly make it happen. No company that size can survive at the feet of a single not-so-benevolent dictator. Some day Jobs will no longer be at Apple, for whatever reason, and I would hope it is only for a well-deserved retirement, so he can spend more time with his family and friends, perhaps learn golf, or just travel the world.

And that, as they say, is that.

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5 Responses to “Time to End the Steve Jobs Death Watch!”

  1. Dave says:

    Re: Options I’ve followed the story and just read today’s piece in the NYT that the practice “was common and legal.” So what’s the problem? From a fairness stand point I’m sure the little guy in Apple’s employ didn’t get his options backdated. Was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 retroactive? Can you enlighten? (I’ve sent this same question to Gruber, and yes we have a professional manage our investments 🙂

  2. gopher says:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if Al Gore took his place?

  3. Doc says:

    Perhaps all those anti-Mac folks out there are missing the soap opera that was Apple in the 90s and are looking for another “Apple is dead because…” theme now that the Mac and the iPod are doing so well 😉

  4. holysmokes says:

    Gopher: Wouldn’t it be interesting if Al Gore took his place?

    I don’t think so. This guy has the charisma of a 2 by 4.

  5. Stanley McClaren says:

    I thought his death is a celebration?

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