I have one thing to say about Steve Jobs' announcement he will take a five-month medical leave: Steve, get well and get well soon.
But Jobs may face a long road to recovery. Bloomberg reported Thursday that Jobs, who battled pancreatic cancer in 2004, may be facing new surgery to remove the rest of his pancreas.
Word of the possible surgery comes after Jobs sent a note to Apple employees Wednesday informing them that he was taking the medical leave. "During the past week, I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought," Jobs said in the e-mail.
Jobs' health issues have been the subject of a fair amount of speculation over the past year. Some of it in bad taste. Allow me to separate myself from the pack of muckrakers with my own personal wishes to Jobs for a speedy recovery and recuperation period.
You can bet I have a lot more to say, but let's begin with that point. Jobs is an amazing individual, has served as an inspiration to tens of millions and runs his company the way he wants to. And to all those speculating about how sick Jobs is or using it as some kind of righteous platform on what Jobs should or should not have disclosed, I hope you never get sick. But if you do, I hope you are treated more compassionately than Jobs has been treated. You just get the feeling the whole matter was dealt with in an insensitive fashion—especially by those in the media who so vehemently fight for privacy protection.
I found the speculation about Jobs' health utterly amazing because it defied common sense. Here is a guy who beat or survived pancreatic cancer—a miracle when you consider how many people succumb to that dreadful disease. If less than five years after that he starts losing weight, looks gaunt and not healthy, then you can safely assume the guy is sick and it is his personal decision to tell the world just how sick he is or isn't. If he can come to work or work remotely and contribute to the company then that's all anyone can ask for. If he wants to stay in office until—God forbid—his last breath, then Jobs should do so.
You have to think of where the kind of disclosure people wanted from Apple's board and Jobs will end. Just what health information should a CEO reveal? Do we want the results of HP CEO Mark Hurd's annual physical? Should that information be released to the public in the same way the president of the United States shares it with the nation? What if a CEO has AIDS or any other disease? Who will become the arbiter of what is a serious health condition or one that is nonthreatening? In this era of big government we are entering, should the incoming administration appoint such an individual?
Let me break some news to you. If Jobs were forced into retirement because of declining or poor health, Apple is not going to crumble, it will not stop innovating, it will not fall to pieces. Microsoft did not miss a beat after Bill Gates backed away from day-to-day management of the company and then retired. If Tim Cook is to Apple what Steve Ballmer is to Microsoft, then everyone should stop worrying about Apple's future. Apple has 32,000 hard-working employees, many of them talented engineers. It has leaders like Cook, Jonathan Ive, Sina Tamaddon, Bob Mansfield and Philip Schiller who are pound for pound as talented as any other Silicon Valley or tech firm out there. Apple is the envy of most tech firms because of its ability to innovate.
For anyone who wants to look at this tragic situation from a pure investment standpoint, then you should run a chart of Apple's stock for the past five years. At the end of January 2004, the stock was trading at around $11. By January 2005, it stood at $39.42, a year later it was $85 and then it peaked in late 2007 at nearly $200. If all you cared about was stock growth and the profit that could have been made along the way, Jobs did far more than any other CEO could have ever delivered.
There is a time to be critical and a time to reel it back in and say thank you and get well. This is one of those moments, and it will define your character.