Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ Monday morning announcement he is taking a medical leave of absence couldn’t come at a worse time. As in 2009, when Jobs underwent a liver transplant just prior to CES, this episode comes just days before the tech giant announces what many presume will be another gangbuster financial report Wednesday.
As a result of both Jobs’ cryptic announcement and Apple’s legendary tight-lipped PR, investors and observers are left parsing this morning’s short statement. “I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can,” Jobs said. However, some take the words as possibly the Apple leader’s swan song.
“Those are not the words of someone taking a short leave who is confident he will be back at the company soon (or ever),” opined Wall Street analyst turned blogger Henry Blodget. In a 2009 note to Apple employees, Jobs mentioned a specific timeframe and said he looked forward to seeing his friend again soon.
Not only pundits, but investors are also concerned about the future. In Germany, word of Jobs’ medical leave sent the Cupertino, Calif. company’s stock down 6 percent. A global technology expert told Reuters “one could be quite worried” if Jobs’ pancreatic cancer returns.
The core question isn’t so much why Jobs’ took his medical leave, but whether Apple can continue its tremendous success without its co-founder’s daily guidance. Already we are hearing assurance from Jobs that Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook “will do a terrific job executing the plans we have in place for 2011.” If one were in the tea-leaf-reading business (as anyone covering Apple must be), that is about as clear a succession announcement as we will likely hear from the company.