According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, Steve Jobs is still very much involved in the activities of Apple (s aapl), and in fact still provides most of the vision, direction, and general control of the company. The WSJ cites people “familiar with the matter” as the source of the information, but officially Apple is remaining silent, noting only that Steve still plans to return in June.
The source also says that Tim Cook, Apple’s COO and the man in control of the company while Jobs is away on medical leave, still runs the day-to-day operations of the computer and electronics manufacturer. Meanwhile, Jobs works on big picture items from home, like testing devices, product plans and key strategy. In fact, the WSJ maintains that he was instrumental in the recent iPhone OS 3.0 update, revealed last month.
That’s not the surprising news, though. According to their sources, Jobs is also hard at work developing a new device, one that’s been hinted at many times before. Yes, it’s the elusive Apple tablet that has fanbois basically salivating. The device, if real, will be sized larger than an iPod touch or an iPhone but smaller than a Macbook (something we’ve heard about before), and it does seem to agree with recent reports of Apple ordering a significant number of 10-inch touchscreens from Taiwan.
Regardless of whether the recent reports are real, Apple seems to have recovered from the initial damage done from Jobs’ original announcement of his absence. Investor confidence has been restored by the company’s continued strong performance, and many analysts suspect this leave-taking was only the first step towards a permanent transition of power, done gradually to soften the blow.
Frankly, I’m a little worried that this new report is an intentional leak by investment groups to artificially draw down stock prices before the new iPhone’s launch to encourage larger gains. Investors might see the news as proof that Jobs was actually behind the company’s recent success all along and lose the shaky new confidence they’ve found in the current acting management. It’s not like investment bankers are above using Apple’s Internet community following to manipulate stock performance.
Maybe I’m just jumping at ghosts, but the whole WSJ article seems designed to renew fears about the state of the company in a post-Jobs era, right down to the parting suggestion that Apple managers seem to be showing a renewed interest in Silicon valley recruitment agencies. It’s exactly the kind of unverifiable suggestion that could make a skittish investor get cold feet and pull out. We’ll see how the market responds soon enough, since the WSJ article is spreading like wildfire across the Apple blogosphere as we speak.