Apple could have avoided the revived Steve Jobs rumors by opening up. Instead, its communications with the outside world continue to assume the contours of a raised middle finger.
Charles CooperFormer Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Over the years, I've become inured to the rah-rah pumpathon that is CNBC. With the notable exception of the delightful curmudgeon Mark Haynes, the channel's anchors and correspondents dutifully perform their function as glorified cheerleaders for Wall Street.
But now CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau chief, Jim Goldman, can add to his impressive credentials the title of media apologist for both Apple and Steve Jobs
In a postearlier Wednesday, Goldman came out swinging against unnamed market "manipulators" responsible for punishing Apple stock, especially in the aftermath of Apple's abrupt announcement that Steve Jobs would not keynote January's Macworld. Taking his lead from MacDailyNews, which lamented that "there's only so much Apple shareholders can take," Goldman wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to impose an "uptick" rule ,which prevents you from just shorting with abandon and supposedly would slow down future bear raids against Apple.
"MacDailyNews cites a great comment from John McCain last September: 'The regulators were asleep, my friends, they were not working for you. (The SEC has allowed abusive short-selling to turn) our markets into a casino.' Great point. And consider that if Bernie Madoff clients can be killed by massive market manipulation, how can the little guy expect to compete on a level playing field?"
Goldman depicts MacDaily News as being "Apple-centric." That's understatement. The Fox News of Appledom is more like it. That MacDaily News would push for SEC intervention on Apple's behalf should surprise no one. But before descending on Chris Cox's office, let's consider how we arrived at this juncture.
More than any other CEO, Steve Jobs has become synonymous with his company. Is there a more accomplished executive in the contemporary business world? At the very least, Jobs deserves a place among the Top Three with Sam Walton and Warren Buffett.
I won't speculate on his health but Jobs is a pancreatic cancer survivor. Let's not pretend. So when Apple drops its PR bombshell less than a month before Macworld, you have to wonder what's behind that decision. Maybe he's burned out or maybe he's in the middle of writing the Great American Novel. Who knows? Apple has since imposed its famous cone of silence.
But with Apple shares getting shellacked on Wednesday as the rumors flew, Goldman was downright incensed how "any momentum Apple enjoys is quickly, electronically dashed by those betting against the company."
"The web lights up with concerns about Steve Jobs' health; whether he's dying; or will be incapacitated; or will be resigning or retiring. And shares get destroyed, no matter how fundamentally solid Apple might be...The fact is, posting "gaunt," or "frail," or "Steve Jobs is ill" is the financial equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded movie house. And if that kind of thing is going to be tolerated, government should step in and either investigate the manipulators, or bring back the Uptick Rule."
To be sure, Apple's stock has been the target of unsavory shorts from time to time, but you want to talk about market manipulation? Ask Goldman's colleague Jim (Booyah) Cramer. The guy's apparently an expert.
Fact is that Apple brought on this mess. After the June developers' conference, questions got raised about Jobs' appearance. The company said his health was a private matter. Some argued that the demands of corporate governance or greater transparency should require Apple to be more forthcoming. But that was the final word from corporate.
So now what to think about Jobs' mysterious withdrawal from Macworld?
This is not the way a company as PR savvy as Apple usually rolls out the news. We don't know whether Jobs is feeling punk or whether he was dumped in a power struggle. That makes it a rumor monger's field. No surprise there. In blaming dark forces for spreading rumor and innuendo for financial gain, Goldman misses the bigger point. Apple could have avoided all of this by opening up. Instead, its communications with the outside world continue to assume the contours of a raised middle finger.