Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Return of Steve

Something I had missed yesterday: the FT (and others) read the tea leaves — that by quoting Steve Jobs and calling him CEO, the iCEO is back:

Apple quoted Jobs and referred to him as the company’s chief executive in a press release touting the sales of 1m next-generation iPhones in their first weekend of availability.

It was the first time Jobs had been heard from in his official capacity since January, when he announced that he would need to take time off for unspecified medical issues. The company had not said in what capacity he would return.

“This effectively tells us he’s back in the job” with a backhanded disclosure, said Yair Reiner, an Oppenheimer & Co. analyst. “The intention here is to try to take Steve Jobs and not make him the lead of the story any more, to really try to refocus the investment community and Apple customers on the products and the expanding group of executives.”
And, in fact, Reuters reported Jobs visited the Apple campus Monday:
Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January, was seen by a Reuters reporter leaving the Apple campus in Cupertino, California dressed in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans. He walked out chatting with another person before climbing into a black car that then drove off.
The liver transplant rumor (leaked at a time when Apple was basking in favorable product publicity) has been confirmed. Jobs got his transplant at Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, which has one of the shortest waiting times in the country (less than 4 months).

The ethics of Apple’s non-disclosure (or misleading statements) rages on. Here is a quote from the FT:
“Some would argue that the liver transplant is the fix and is good news,” said Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. “Some would argue the liver transplant is bad news and ought to be disclosed to shareholders. It’s a close call and depends a lot on the specific medical details.”
Is anyone else struck by the irony of Mr. Hanson’s pronouncement? (Hint: where did SCU get the seed grant that created his center? And where did the donor get his wealth?).

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