Steve’s Dilemma, Apple’s Quandary

2567370531_374d9a9fcb_mApple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs today issued a letter that outlines why he is skipping the Macworld: He has a hormonal imbalance that caused him to drastically lose weight, and he needs to take care of it ASAP. His weight loss had led to rampant speculation that he is dying, and the news has acted as a 10-ton stone around Apple’s neck, pushing the company’s stock lower.

There are some who will point fingers at Apple (s AAPL) and Jobs for lying about the reason he was not going to present a keynote at Macworld 2009 in San Francisco. In the most technical sense, Jobs, by not coming clean, was lying to the community. But on a more emotional level, I totally understand why he didn’t tell us sooner.

applestockAs a public company, Apple needs to address the issue; its the company’s fiduciary responsibility. And perhaps more importantly, it was not fair to the Apple community, which has rallied behind the company in its darkest hour — why wouldn’t they this time around? Yet, at the same time, I can totally understand Steve’s need for privacy, especially over matters of health, which are extremely private. Therein lies Steve’s dilemma and Apple’s quandary.

Over last few weeks I cringed when I saw Jobs’ health become a bit of a football in the media. Whether it was on-the-scene reports from a yogurt salesperson  or big media outlets, everyone was dishing. God, that made me so angry!

I can speak from personal experience: When you are not well and spending a lot of time trying to repair your broken body, it is not easy to deal with any issue beyond you and your family. As a patient, it is especially hard if you really don’t know the cause, and if you aren’t sure you’re going to make it. It has taken almost a year for me to feel comfortable in my skin.

You, I and all who were speculating have no idea how Steve must be feeling, for he had to deal with a life-threatening pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago, before being struck by this mysterious  hormone imbalance. When you are unwell, you want to spend a lot of time with your family, and it is good to see Jobs do exactly that. In doing so, he is bringing home an issue that Silicon Valley has failed to come to grips with. Being a workaholic has its price — at the end of it all, you can pay with your life. Even supermen like Steve Jobs aren’t immune to it.

So, take a cue from Steve. Chill a little, spend an extra hour a day with your family, and work smarter, not longer.

And to Steve, just get better. What the world doesn’t need is another day of mediocrity.

Full text of Steve Jobs’ Open Letter

Dear Apple Community,

For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.

I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for
Apple first.

So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.


Photo of Steve Jobs at WWDC 2008 by Danny Novo via Flickr.