Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/14/jobs_health/

Steve Jobs takes medical leave from Apple to focus on health

Issues 'more complex' than originally thought

By Rik Myslewski

Posted in Financial News, 14th January 2009 21:55 GMT

Updated Steve Jobs has taken a leave of absence from his position as Apple CEO so he can focus on health issues that are "more complex" than he originally thought.

In a statement released this afternoon immediately following the suspension of after-hours trading of Apple stock, Jobs said that because "the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction," he has "asked [Apple COO] Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple's day to day operations.

He added that "during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought" and that he has "decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June."

Health questions have dogged Apple's 53-year-old co-founder - and, many say, its savior - since he revealed in August 2004 that he had undergone surgery to remove a tumor from his pancreas.

Although a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often regarded as a "death sentence," it's important to note that the type of tumor that prompted Jobs's operation, known as an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, is far less aggressive than the usual type of pancreatic tumor, an adenocarcinoma.

Even without surgery, according to Andrew Ko, MD, an assistant clinical professor in the UCSF Division of Hematology/Oncology, a person "with an islet cell tumor can sometimes live for years."

With surgery, the prognosis is improved - unless the tumor returns.

Declining to comment

When Jobs announced this January 5th that he had a "hormonal imbalance" that was causing him to lose weight, speculation about his health heated up. Rumors swirled about whether his tumor had indeed returned - but the deeply private Jobs declined to confirm or deny them.

In his January statement, Jobs said "The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment." This assurance did little to calm talk of Apple's succession plans, which had begun to heat up after Apple's announcement on December 16th that Apple's SVP for marketing, Phil Shiller, would take Jobs's keynote position at the upcoming Macworld Expo.

Today's message from Jobs that he is taking a medical leave of absence is sure to generate a tsunami of punditry.

One thing is inarguable, however: Steve Jobs is an iconic figure, a leader with uncommon gifts of persuasion, and a man that inspires passionate feelings - both for him and against him.

He's widely regarded to be the singular heart and soul of Apple, despite the fact that he has surrounded himself with a highly talented crew of engineers and designers that he regularly - and, it appears, sincerely - thanks at every product-announcement presentation.

His departure from Apple would deprive the company of a man who is deeply involved with both strategic and tactical decision-making. Although Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about its internal workings, rumors abound of Jobs inserting himself into seemingly minor details of product design and development.

He is known as a man who is blunt, acerbic - and usually right.

Some analysts have estimated that Jobs's departure from Apple would lower the company's value by 20 per cent or more - an estimate bolstered by the dive its stock price took today, immediately after the leave-of-absence announcement.

Should that leave become permanent - when that leave becomes permanent - we'll learn more about the company's resilience, measured both by investors' confidence and by the ability of the Apple team to continue innovating in a Jobs-less era.

The most-pressing question is when that transition will take place. Weeks? Months? Years?

Only one man knows - or may know - and it's becoming unsettlingly clear that he may not be providing his constituency with full details.

Apple investors deserve to know. Apple devotees want to know. Apple workers have the right to know.

Come clean, Steve. How bad is it?