Apple: Jobs Back on the Job
Apple has informed a number of press outlets that CEO Steve Jobs has returned to work on schedule after his six month medical leave of absence (see “Steve Jobs Takes Medical Leave Until June,” 2009-01-14). According to spokesperson Katie Cotton, for the time being he will work several days a week at Apple’s Cupertino campus, and from his home office the remaining days. Apple’s COO Tim Cook has been handling day-to-day operations in Jobs’s absence.
Jobs’s medical leave was, according to him, necessary to deal with an unspecified hormone imbalance that left him physically gaunt. More recently, it has come to light that he received a liver transplant at the Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute of Memphis, Tennessee. With Jobs’s permission, the hospital announced that the procedure had taken place, though they did not specify when it occurred.
We at TidBITS, though happy to see Jobs make a timely and hopefully healthy return to Apple, remain distressed at the incessant nattering over his health. While there’s no question that Jobs brings vision and marketing savvy to Apple, the company’s performance over the last six months shows that he is by no means indispensable. In that time, Apple posted the company’s best non-holiday-quarter revenue and earnings ever, shipped the iPhone 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 plus significant updates to the entire Mac line, and saw its stock rise from under $80 per share to more than $140 per share. Those are not the actions of a company struggling with the absence of a charismatic leader.
I'll go one step further and commit heresy. Although Jobs is known for his "magical" stage presentations, I thought Schiller and the rest at WWDC did just fine. They followed the same script, even mostly same cadence.
I daresay that as much as Jobs is good onstage, the secret to his presentation success has always been lots of rehearsal, attention to detail, and the capability to cope well if something fails.
At this point, I almost wonder if some of Steve Jobs's presentation magic isn't just that he's done so many presentations in basically the same way that we all know what to expect. I mean, he's good, certainly, but it's not like he's singing and dancing. He's just really solid, and he's developed a personal style that's effective and instantly recognizable.
I think there's something exceptional about Jobs' Reality Distortion Field, which AFAIK is not duplicated anywhere in the industry. There's something about the combination of his charisma, and Apple's products, which is perfectly pitched to generating geeklust in the press and consumer audience.
I agree that Schiller et al. were perfectly fine -- and I still hope that Jobs is around as corporate pitchman for a long time to come.
Joy of Tech did a comic about his return to work; you can see it at http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1264.html
"the company's performance over the last six months shows that he is by no means indispensable"
Yeah, well I can turn the engine off in my car, too, and save a lot of gas if I'm coasting downhill. Eventually I'll need that engine power to get me up the next hill.
Can you say "John Sculley" "Michael Schindler" "Gil Amelio"?
Are you suggesting that Tim Cook has been a huge failure over the last six months? Based on what? :-)
No - are you suggesting that Steve Jobs has not been a huge success?
It seems that anyone who took over Apple would be getting a free ride for quite some time. I was not comparing Tim Cook to the gallery of former CEOs, just remembering when the company was in the doldrums after the first departure of one of the co-founders.
My point is merely that I think Apple is a grown-up company that doesn't rely on a single person to survive and thrive. Obviously, we have only six months of recent history to base on that, but I think that's much more relevant to the current situation than ancient history when the market conditions and Apple's place in the market were much different.
"for the time being he will work several days a week at Apple's Cupertino campus, and from his home office the remaining days" - sounds like a lot of work