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Steve’s Dilemma, Apple’s Quandary

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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.

23 Responses to “Steve’s Dilemma, Apple’s Quandary”

  1. In an era of shrinking medical privacy, Mr. Jobs has every right to control the timing and content of his disclosures to the public regarding his health. It’s one thing for Apple’s Board of Directors to insist on being kept in the loop so they can plan for Apple’s future management; but as far as I’m concerned, the public’s “right to know” is superseded by Jobs’ right to be left the heck alone.

  2. @Neurotic Nomad,

    I couldn’t care less if he came clean or not. That is his personal decision and only his decision. If he doesn’t want us to know, then well so be it. Others might disagree and say they want more information. And they surely can talk about it — just not on my blog. I am sorry, I feel very strongly about people’s private lives especially on matters of health. It is not a spectator sport.

    So now you know my reasons for writing this post.

  3. @Silas

    I am not sure what you mean by can’t you read. I actually don’t say anything about Macworld etc. But if you read the coverage recently it was all pinned to the Macworld decision/announcement. Secondly, if you can’t comprehend the reason of the reason of the post, well….

  4. I appreciate your comments, but Jeez Louise, , can’t you read? In absolutely no way at all did he indicate that the Macworld decision played any role whatsoever in that decision (that’s because IT DIDN’T). If you can’t comprehend a simple e-mail, you shouldn’t be writing anything, period.

  5. “In the most technical sense, Jobs, by not coming clean, was lying to the community.”

    From my reading, Mr. Jobs makes 4 points:

    1. Because I’m thin, every move I make is attributed to my health and apparently my non-moves as well.
    2. I’m not too sick to do it. My weight loss is due to an unrelated, non-life-threatening, non-job-interfering problem – which is being addressed.
    3. Because it’s unrelated and non-job-interfering, there was nothing and is nothing to report.
    4. I’ve always put this company first.
    5. Although it’s none of your business, this is my problem and that is all I’m saying on the matter.

    At which point did he “come clean”? What new information radically changed from the old “It’s not the cancer, I’m losing weight due to something unrelated” explanation?

    We got ONE more detail: Hormone Imbalance. No why, no how, no details what-so-ever.

    The people who didn’t believe his first “I’m not sick” explanation won’t buy this one, either – especially those investors who benefit from the continued gossip.

    I don’t think Mr. Jobs is dying – but I do believe we’re beginning Year 3 of a 5-year phase-out. Apple University will be his focus after he steps down… and he will stay there until he dies.

  6. Dear Om,

    Thank you for publishing this along with your own feelings on the subject. Steve Jobs is synonymous with the brand which is why there is so much attention and speculation around his illness as it relates to Apple. That kind of branding is both a blessing and a curse.

    What people should focus on at present is supporting Steve Jobs, respecting his wishes, and remembering that although Apple has a phenomenal front man, the company is also comprised of passionate individuals who share Steve Jobs’ vision who are also accountable to millions of Mac enthusiasts, customers and stockholders who expect the same standard of quality, performance, and innovation, not to mention wow factor.

    Thanks for letting us converse here with you.

    Best wishes,

    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Co-founder of

  7. it’s refreshing to see genuine compassion amid all the mindless media hype. much respect, malik.

    i, like you, hope mr. jobs’s health improves and that he returns to the helm of apple. more than that, i hope he successfully tends to his health. technology can wait. seriously, people.

  8. nice article mr malik
    guess the stock price will still be volatile for a while no matter what is published!
    PS: is there a way to send u an email mr malik? I can not find your contact details on your website.


  9. Ronjini

    Why people feel the need to insert themselves into others lives, judge and jump to conclusions is a mystery to me. If the man wants to take a year from his own show, he should be able to. Frankly, its none of our business why he’s losing weight despite the fact that everyone has their eyes on him. Spending time with your family is not a crime and the fact that he has sacrificed many holidays to appease the Apple community has been more than a great gesture in past years. Let the man spend time with his family like the rest of us do! It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it) that America is a country that is terminally stressed out, focused on work and does NOT spend enough living and enjoying life and the people around them.

    Even being in generation Y,I agree with OM, chill out and enjoy the people and life around you. I will be working my whole life…especially since my 401K has been reduced to a steak dinner, there’s no reason to become a corporate robot.