Why Steve Jobs' health matters more than Apple says

Steve Jobs' health matters. A lot. Let's hope Apple wakes up and realizes that.

"Steve loves Apple. He serves at the pleasure of Apple's board. He has no plans to leave Apple. Steve's health is a private matter," said Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer on a conference call with investors on Monday.

Since then, investors have been calling for an update on their CEO's health -- to no avail.

"Every client call today I've had has brought up the health issue," said Charles Wolf, a securities analyst at Needham & Company to the New York Times. "I think the drop was based on the margin; that's when the stock really cratered."

Regardless, it brings up an interesting question: does Steve Jobs' health matter? Sure, he's a CEO of a public company and his decisions will have a major impact on shareholder value, but should his own health matters stay private? After all, I don't want my health records displayed in a public forum and it's not something that I enjoy talking about.

It makes sense for his health issues to be private, right?

Think again.

Steve Jobs' health matters are more important to Apple shareholders than Steve Ballmer's are to Microsoft shareholders and Larry Ellison's are to Oracle shareholders. Unlike any other CEO in this business, Steve Jobs is the key to Apple success in the past, present, and future. And without him at the helm, its future is very much in doubt.

What product Apple sells right now doesn't have Steve Jobs' influence built into it? The iPod? Yup. The iPhone? Yep. The MacBooks? You bet. Every single Apple product is the result of countless hours of Apple designers and engineers bringing their leader products and acquiescing to each demand he makes.

Aside from that, Apple's success can be directly attributed to Steve Jobs. Let's face it -- before he came back, the company was in the tank and most of us thought it had little chance of survival. But by changing its philosophy, doing away with Mac OS licensing, and totally changing the culture of the company, he not only pulled Apple out of the abyss, but he made it one of the most powerful companies in the tech industry.

Since that time, Steve Jobs has presided over the greatest increase in valuation the company has ever seen and with a booming stock price, he's made quite a few shareholders millionaires.

With all that in mind, we're supposed to accept the company's COO explanation when he says that Steve Jobs' health is a 'private matter'? Yeah right.

Steve Jobs is the face of Apple, the leader of the juggernaut, and the visionary behind every single product it offers. To simply say that his personal health issues aren't material to the health of the company is both foolhardy and downright ridiculous.

Unlike Microsoft, which has a Steve Ballmer for Bill Gates, there is no well-known and trustworthy number two at Apple. Instead, it's just Steve. And without Steve's keynotes, without his awkward charisma, and without his uncanny intellect, Apple is nothing more than just another tech company trying to dominate an industry.

Steve Jobs' health matters and it matters more than any other CEO's health in the space. Millions of people have put their hard-earned money into the company in the hopes that their retirement will be padded and they'll be able to enjoy a modicum of the success Steve Jobs has all these years.

But if he were to announce an illness tomorrow that would see him leave the company in the near-term, the stock price would plummet and he would leave Apple amid financial turmoil.

Enough is enough, Apple. Steve Jobs' health does matter and the more you say it doesn't, the worse off the company will be in the long-term.

Steve Jobs is a public figure, regardless of whether he wants to admit it or not. And with billions of dollars entrusted in him, he better make the right move and disclose everything he knows.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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