In a rare instance of disclosing details about his private life, Steve Jobs posted a letter on Apple’s Web site discussing his recent health problems. Jobs explains in the letter that a hormone disorder has caused his weight and body mass to decline, by apparently reducing his ability to metabolize protein. While a mystery to him and his doctors for months, he wrote, he now has a plan of attack to reverse the problem, which he’ll be focusing on in the months to come.
While the recovery process will apparently be a gradual one, Jobs sounds confident he will return to full health, and will be able to maintain his position as Apple’s CEO. The latter point is supported by another letter posted today by Apple’s Board of Directors. The board offered its unwavering support during Steve’s recuperation, writing, “If there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons cannot continue to fulfill his duties as Apple’s CEO, you will know it.” This indicates the board has never been in the dark about Jobs’s health status.
It’s good to hear that Jobs’s health issues are under control, and that he is on the road to recovery. But why make such an announcement now? Jobs says he’s writing so that we may all relax and enjoy the show this week, though this seems like a nice way of saying, “Quit talking about my health.” He writes, “Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.” Surely, this kind of speculation must get on his nerves, especially given the effect it appears to have on Apple’s stock prices.
Perhaps it makes sense to discuss one’s health issues only when it’s clear as to what’s going on. If the cause of Jobs’s weight loss had him and his doctors puzzled, it stands to reason that he wasn’t going to open up the noggin-scratching session to the public.
The letter’s attempt at appealing to the Mac community for support, may, for some, be undercut by a gesture many perceived as demonstrating a lack of interest in community and tradition: namely, Apple’s decision to not return for the 2010 Macworld Expo. This duality of appreciating and dismissing the Mac community is apparent in the letter’s final sentences.
Jobs writes, “I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first. So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.”
And Jobs is justified in his grumpiness. After all, who among us would appreciate constant public speculation on our health problems?