Now Apple's credibility really is in the balance

Steve Jobs' early Monday acknowledgment of a mysterious ailment is the first real "communication" about the health of its CEO.

If you're an Apple shareholder or employee, the good news is that Steve Jobs' health is not in any immediate danger.

Or so we're supposed to surmise from the cryptic note issued by Jobs early Monday on the state of his health--and the even more cryptic note put out by his employer.

Steve Jobs' health
At the unveiling of new MacBooks in October, Steve Jobs tersely addressed concerns about his health: "That's all we'll talk about with Steve's health today. Want to see (his blood pressure) higher? Just ask him more questions." James Martin/CNET News

Here's the relevant text from Jobs' statement Monday:

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.

OK, it's great to know that he's not facing a cancer recurrence, as some had speculated. Jobs is a tech icon and the industry would be much the poorer were he to retire from the scene. But this latest PR stunt is going to raise new questions. Not about the exact nature of Jobs' ailment but about the parsimonious way Apple has communicated with the public about the health of its CEO.

Until now, the mantra was "Steve's health is a private matter, Steve is our CEO." The impression Apple wanted to leave was that everything's just fine at the helm. That shaded the truth--and I'm being charitable here. At this point, how can you trust the official chronology offered up by Jobs and Apple? Even with Monday's statements, I can't call it communication so much as stonewalling.

True to form, Apple won't care a fig what outsiders may think. "Just keep on buying and don't bother us with the rest of it." Talk about a reality distortion field.

See also:
• Steve Jobs discloses hormone imbalance
• Health concerns force Apple's Jobs from Macworld
• Apple's last Macworld beginning of new era

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