Apple head man Steve Jobs is taking a six-month leave of absence to deal with “health problems,” sending fear through investors and knocking a big chunk off Apple’s share price. Reason: There are few if any CEOs more synonymous with their companies than Jobs is with Apple. Nobody thinks Apple’s recent world-dominance with the iPod and iPhone would have happened without Jobs.
NY Times business analyst Joe Nocera believes that Apple has been less than honest about Jobs’ health. Whatever the full truth, Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford is worth visiting again. It’s full of tough-minded but inspiring advice about creativity, mortality, and finding purpose in life.
I”ve written about consumer technology for a number of years, and I’ve always been struck by the dissonance between the image of Apple products–cool, laid back, fostering community and connection–and the reality of the company’s business style: cold, aloof, and so secretive it makes the Bush White House look like a Facebook convention.
Microsoft gets whacked for being the cold, unresponsive monolith when in fact it encourages an army of bloggers to weigh in on products and allows its own employees to publicly criticize company doings. You can wait weeks for a “no comment” from Apple, which once sued two bloggers for speculating about new gadgets to be released at the MacWorld convention.
That said, the Jobs speech at Stanford is still worth reading for its paradoxical thinking about life and about death, which, we all hope, is still far away in Jobs’ future.