One thing about Apple: They can turn almost any development, however innocuous at first glance, into some sort of marketing opportunity. Take the extended sick leave by Steve Jobs. Consider that an absent CEO from most any other company would yield a collective yawn, but not Apple, and that’s a major part of their carefully-crafted public image.
You can almost think of the life of Steve Jobs as part-folklore, the way he was ousted from Apple in 1985, only to return in the following decade when the company was on the brink. After assuming control of the shattered pieces of the business he co-founded, he righted the ship before it sank, and brought it into a new era of success.
His bout with cancer showed his mortality, and some wondered how anyone could recover, but recover he did, although certainly that long absence to mend from his present ailments led many to believe that Jobs might never return to Apple.
Officially, all Apple is saying is that Jobs is scheduled to end his leave of absence by the end of June, period. Understandably, some members of the tech and financial media are skeptical, suggesting that, even if he shows up as scheduled, he’ll occupy a reduced role in the company. Perhaps, but certainly nobody knows for certain outside Apple’s inner circle.
However, there are indications that Jobs will return healthy and fully engaged to resume his full time job. First there was that story quoting Apple’s other “Steve,” Steve Wozniak, that he has spoken to Jobs and he sounds healthy and energetic, and not sick at all. Sure, skeptics will respond that even someone seriously ill can sound alert and strong for at least a brief period during the day in order to field a phone conversation. Then again, Wozniak has known Jobs for decades, so let’s take his word for it.
Besides, the comments are certainly reassuring.
A few days later, the Mac rumor sites were rife with reports that Jobs has actually been observed on the Apple campus, looking hale and hearty. Apple had nothing to say yet again, and perhaps the story is someone’s invention. Or perhaps the campaign to pave the way for their CEO’s return is in full force.
Now you might take the comments from Wozniak as just a coincidence and the reports of Jobs that emerged from the rumor sites to be wishful thinking. All well and good, and if that’s the case, the discussion can end here.
But what if Apple corporate initiated that casual conversation between Wozniak and Jobs? What if, in turn, they fed the stories about Jobs being sighted on the campus. Whether true or not, the reports themselves are bound to generate discussion and, most of all, anticipation.
I can’t say for certain how seriously you folks consider all this. Maybe it just fell under the radar, or maybe it came to light because there hasn’t been much solid news emerging from Apple, but it sure keeps the brand in the public arena.
Of course, the talk will become far more interesting as anticipation builds for revelations about Snow Leopard and the next generation iPhone during the WWDC beginning on June 8th. Sure, the shape and feature set of the next iPhone has generated some stories too, with the emphasis on a 32GB version, a camera equipped with automatic focus and a few other goodies. In passing, I should say that most of the online chatter has it that the new iPhone’s case design will be extremely similar to its predecessor.
In the scheme of things, stories about a new iPhone have the largest amount of credibility, since Best Buy is already telling customers that they are running low on stock, and it appears there is a worldwide movement to pare the inventory as much as possible before the first shipments of a new model arrive.
Even if a new iPhone is introduced next week, few expect it’ll go on sale right away. It’ll probably get a July release date, similar to the previous model. As to Snow Leopard, since developers are getting a final beta, don’t expect to see it on sale for two or three months, and I’m suggesting the last Friday in August.
Now as to Steve Jobs, well we all know that Marketing VP Philip Schiller is the person booked to host the keynote address at WWDC next week, accompanied by the usual gang of executives who will hold fort on their particular areas of expertise.
But could Apple also be somehow preparing us for a “one more thing” that’ll certainly bring the house down? How about a brief cameo appearance from Steve Jobs? If he is truly healthy enough to return to his full-time job at the end of the month, surely he’ll be sufficiently hale and hearty to show up three weeks earlier? It sounds logical enough, but then again, maybe those hints are just hype and nothing more.