Welcome Back, Steve

Steve Jobs, his razor stubble, and his black turtleneck will soon be returning to Apple's Cupertino Campus according to recent business news reports. That's not a surprise, as a late-June return date was announced at the time he went on his self-imposed hiatus. What IS a surprise is the he will be bringing with him a replacement liver.

My first gut reaction is some squeamishness. Not at the thought of swapped internal organs, but at the thought that investors may feel deceived about the severity of Jobs' health difficulties. Last we heard, it was a "hormone imbalance" and/or a "nutritional problem." It sounded like he needed rest and herbal tea, not an organ transplant.

I hate to say it, but I feel Apple may be lucky to elude SEC scrutiny over this. Especially after the last year, where Wall Street ran completely amok with opaque investment vehicles, deceptive and irresponsible loan practices, and probably outright lies to shareholders, the government and the public at large, we need transparency more than ever.

I respect Jobs' privacy and am sympathetic with him to the extent that I wouldn't want certain aspects of my health condition made generally known. Keeping a lid on this is understandable from a business standpoint, as there are always unreasonably wild stock price fluctuations every time Steve gets so much as a sniffle. It doesn't bother me that he kept personal health issues personal (especially since I'm not an Apple shareholder), but some investor-type people take this kind of thing seriously. Too seriously, perhaps.

While the possible appearance of deception may be troubling, it may also have been one of the smartest things Jobs could do for Apple to step down for half a year. Just as the L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryan recently had the chance to prove he could steer his team to a national championship without Shaq, Apple has had six months to show they can run their business without Jobs calling every signal every day. Several new computers have been unveiled since Jobs stepped aside. Prominent Apple application suites like iLife and iWork have been updated and the development of the "Snow Leopard" operating system has proceeded apace and is on schedule for fall release. And, just a couple of weeks ago, a new iPhone was unveiled and sold a million plus units in it's first few days on the market.

The only possible clinker was the iPod Shuffle released back in March (which I previously discussed here and here), but just because it doesn't appeal to me doesn't mean it does not have a market.

The important thing is, Apple has shown it will not become the equivalent of the Scarecrow without a brain should Jobs disappear from the scene. Maybe now there won't be a massive selloff of stock the next time Steve has a hangnail.

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