Steve Jobs needs to take a page from Fidel Castro's book and give a speech. A big, long one. At Macworld.
Steve Jobs needs to take a page from Fidel Castro’s book and give a speech.
A big, long one. At Macworld.
When Fidel was running Cuba and rumors put him at death’s door, he’d give a two-hour talk to reassure his subjects. Fidel had the May Day parade. Jobs has Macworld.
But Jobs’ people say there will be no Jobs at Macworld 2009. And the last thing the public-relations folks at Apple want you to think is that the move has anything to do with Jobs’ health.
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Which is why they won’t say a thing about his condition. Not a hint. Not a clue. Not a peep. The long-standing company line? “Steve’s health is a private matter.”
Actually, it isn’t.
My health is a private matter. Yours is too. Steve Jobs’ health is not a private matter. Steve Jobs’ health is Apple’s health. When Jobs, a pancreatic-cancer survivor, shows up gaunt in public or acknowledges he is not going to show up in public at all, the company’s stock price dives.
Jobs has shareholders, employees and, yes, Mac fanatics depending on his continued prosperity and health. Is it odd? Yes, it’s very odd. There arguably is not another chief executive in the world who is so closely identified with the company he or she runs.
But it’s what Jobs signed up for, along with the jet and company stock. He created the image of Jobs as Apple, and now it’s time he live up to it by coming clean about his health.
When Jobs is sick or acting like he might be sick, people care. The blogosphere and news columns begin to fill with buzz and rumors and questions and predictions bordering on obsession.
It’s a problem. And it’s a problem Apple has largely brought upon itself.
The company is often politely described as “controlling” or “tight-lipped.”
Actually, the CIA is tight-lipped. Apple is pathologically secretive. Apple is Cuba. (OK, without the “disappearing” of dissidents, firing squads and 1952 Chevys.)
This is a company that will not talk about its co-founder and chief executive’s health. This is a company that will not talk about who will step in should Jobs’ health fail. Even Fidel had Raul.
It’s not that Apple has said nothing about Jobs taking Macworld off. Once word leaked that he would not be attending, the company’s publicists explained that Apple was pulling out of the big show after this year’s edition, so why bother to send the big guy?
Why? Maybe because it is Apple’s last show. Maybe because Jobs is Apple and Apple is Macworld. Maybe because it’s what Jobs does — take to the stage and steal the show, unveiling the iPhone, the thinner MacBook and his thinner self. Maybe because it would be a chance for Jobs to take a victory lap, to honor the past and to explain in crystal-clear terms the future of Apple.
And, yes, because it would be a chance to tell us that he is OK or that he is not OK.
Apple’s public-relations team has said that the company doesn’t need Macworld to communicate with its customers anymore. Between Apple Stores and its Web site, they say, the company can reach 100 million consumers.
You might cut other companies in similar situations some slack. But Apple’s record of being less than forthcoming has left us to wonder: Is Jobs too sick to attend the January show? Are Apple strategists concerned that he could become too sick by then, or even look too sick by then? Would they rather not deal with the questions and speculation should he show up healthy, but with the sniffles or looking thin or tired?
All fair worries. But we shouldn’t really have to be guessing at Apple’s motives.
Steve Jobs could clear it all up with a speech. A long one. At Macworld.
Mike Cassidy is a columnist at the San Jose Mercury News.