Yesterday, Steve jobs confessed what many of us have sensed for a while:  He’s incredibly ill and will not likely last the year.


Does Steve Jobs deserve privacy?  Or has his public life been so overwhelming that he has no right to expect to dictate when his life is on-the-record or off?  Jobs set himself up to be the Apple Messiah and that makes followers wonder about their investment in a single Jesus and their want to continue to follow him into the Promised Land.

Steve has had a strange year.  A year ago he proclaimed reading was dead — and I think that was the first undeniable utterance on the public record that he was not feeling well.  Every time he appeared in person, he was scrutinized for signs of life and ongoing indicators of death. 

In June 2008, I asked — Is Steve Jobs Dying? — and we now know the answer is, “Yes, rather quickly.”

In my predictions for 2009, I — rather morbidly, some may claim — said Steve Jobs would not make it to 2010.  Dying is part of living and Steve Jobs, over the last five years of his life, has dealt more with death than the rest of us.  That is no secret.

When Steve did not make a presentation at MacWorld during the first week of January this year, it was clear Jobs was frighteningly ill even though he publicly claimed his body just wasn’t properly processing food.

On January 5, I Tweeted — typo and all — that the Jobs story felt more like a cover up than an excuse:

Yesterday, a week after his MacWorld no-show, Jobs made another announcement that he was taking six months off — to deal with a crushing health matter.

Steve Jobs is viciously private while wanting to be the center of attention in the public square. For him to confess to any fault in public means the reality behind the reason is 100 times worse than the public statement.  

Steve understands any negative revelation about his health will hurt Apple and condemn his family to hurtful headlines — and pompous proclamations like this article — but what Steve Jobs also knows, and can never quite forget, is that sometimes to live is to die and there’s nothing wrong with closing that perfect, mortal, circle even if it means leaving behind a wunderkind legacy slightly tainted by secrecy and just a little marred by disinformation in the basely human want to covet more than forsake.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Gordon —
    He will be missed. He saved Apple. There should have been more transparency. Now it’s too late.
    Apple should’ve made him a beloved “figurehead” years ago instead of playing him off as the SuperGenius that could do no wrong. There was too much “magic touch” and mythology around Apple that needed to be blown away with a hardcore reality that Apple wasn’t a single visionary, but rather a bunch of really hard workaday people who knew what they were doing and were perfectly capable of solving and inventing stuff on their own.
    Apple didn’t do that, though, and now they’re stuck with their stock tanking. Stock dropped 10% yesterday before trading was halted and right now it’s down another 6%. That’s what you get when you play the Messiah card and your Messiah is a mortal with pancreatic cancer.

  2. Hey Katha —
    Oh, I’m sure he thinks he’s doing right — but he isn’t doing the company any good. I don’t think Steve Jobs really cares if Apple survives without him.
    The NYTimes is on his case again today, too:

    Last week, when Steve Jobs announced that his recent weight loss was due to “a hormone imbalance,” I got calls from reporters and others (which, I must admit, I ducked) asking me if that was the medical problem he had confessed to when he and I had had our infamous phone call last summer — the one where he called me a slime bucket and denied that he had a recurrence of cancer. The answer is no, it wasn’t. It was something else — which of course I still can’t disclose because the conversation was off the record.
    I said at the time that I knew I was being spun by Mr. Jobs. But I didn’t think I was being lied to. Now, I’m not sure what to think. It is certainly possible that he had the condition he described to me last summer. It is also possible that he did, in fact, have “a hormone imbalance,” as he announced last week, as rumors swirled again about his health. And it is even possible that a few days later he discovered that his problems were “more complex” — whatever that means — and that he only just realized that he needs to take a medical leave. It is possible, in other words, that he and Apple are telling the truth.
    Possible — but unlikely. Apple’s stock was hammered in after-hours trading on Thursday because, to be blunt, investors simply don’t believe Mr. Jobs.

    http://executivesuite.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/its-time-for-apple-to-come-clean/?partner=rss

  3. That’s interesting, Nicola, here’s a Bloomberg news story that gets into the guts Job’s cancer:

    Jobs had a procedure similar to a Whipple operation, which involves removing parts of the pancreas, bile duct and small intestine, after he was diagnosed with a rare type of pancreatic cancer in 2004. A potential side effect of this procedure is that the organ has to be removed to prevent pancreatic leak, and the patient has to be kept alive with insulin to regulate blood sugar, said Robert Thomas, head of surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
    “You might have to take the rest of the pancreas out,” said Thomas, 66, who first performed the Whipple procedure more than 20 years ago. “You’re on significant doses of insulin, and it’s not easy to manage. The person has the risk of severe diabetes.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&refer=worldwide&sid=aZIf9jXBqp0Y
    It’s amazing how differently the “what’s acceptable to mention” line is drawn between the UK and the USA.

  4. We have certain privacy laws (EU inspired) including the “right to a private life” which might be the reason – we also have the Press Complaints Commission. It could be that our media is waiting for your media to report – then they can report what your media is saying.

  5. That’s probably a good way of doing it, Nicola. There’s no need to rush to report every single gory detail.
    I thought the Bloomberg article was the most graphic of everything I’ve read so far — which is probably what made it the most fascinating.