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Steve Jobs' Medical Leave and the
Commercial News Media
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18 January 2011   Apple Reviews   Business Practices   All Reviews



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Yesterday, as I first heard over KDB radio, Steve Jobs was granted a medical leave of absence from Apple. He remains as CEO and is very much in charge of all the important long-range vision, but is letting Tim Cook take the helm for day-to-day operations.

All the world knows is contained in this eMail that was sent to everyone at Apple, and was released by Apple to us in the press:



At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple’s day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011.

I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.



This is all that is known, and I've just reported all of it here. Pay attention particularly to the last half of the last sentence: Steve Jobs' deep appreciation for our respect for his family's privacy. Respect.

What is troubling is how traditional news media never bothered to share all the facts as I just did, and instead just made things up to fill pages. This has always been the case with commercial media, but it was painfully obvious yesterday. Commercial news media follows the edict as attributed to Rupert Murdoch of Fox: "the purpose of news is to entertain, not to inform."

Specifically, I was amazed that Bloomberg and the New York Times never shared all the actual facts, and instead simply made up most of their articles.

The most profitable news is when people die or get hurt, after which readers want all the gory details. As we say in television news, "if it bleeds, it leads."

Instead of respecting Mr. Jobs polite request for our respect, instead, the New York Times and Bloomberg found people who claimed to know Steve Jobs, pumped them for private information, and then published it. The names of these people and the amount each was paid has been kept secret, so that this private information can be harvested again.

What's up with this? Mr. Jobs asks for our respect, and the New York Times and Bloomberg now go and snoop around and give us hearsay from unnamed people instead? Times are tough in obsolete media, but the least they could do is not make up the news in such an obvious way.

I read the real information from Apple first, which is why it was so disturbing to see the old media never share everything we do know, and instead, invade Steve Jobs' privacy and make up stuff just to fill pages.

Mr. Jobs is a visionary, as were Copernicus and New Yorker Nikola Tesla. If it weren't for Tesla, we'd have no modern AC electric power, we'd have no radio (US patent 645,576; Marconi's patents were copies and invalidated in 1943), thus we'd have no cell phones, no satellite and no wireless communication. In addition to radio, AC power transmission, generation and AC motors, Tesla also invented the automotive speedometer, neon signs (1883), SONAR, the first remote-controlled boat, secure wireless communications, guided weapons, the Tesla Pump, differential pumping, VTOL aircraft, the capacitive-discharge ignition system for gasoline engines (US Patent 609,650), and was working on a death ray to end all future wars when he passed away. Tesla even foresaw his inventions as leading to television and the World Wide Web.

I believe Mr. Jobs has several times more patents than Mr. Tesla. If Apple and Mr. Jobs hadn't envisioned the practical commercial realization of the iPod Touch and iPad, we'd still be lugging around laptop computers.

If not for the iPod, we'd still be carting around piles of CDs and tapes, and still never able to find the one we want.

If Apple hadn't introduced the first computer with an optical mouse in 2000, we'd still be cleaning mouse balls.

If Apple hadn't introduced the first computer with a mouse, we'd still be using our arrow keys to get around the screen. If Apple hadn't envisioned the Touch interface, on which I read Mr. Jobs has innumerable patents, we'd still be using mice.

If Apple hadn't made real the graphical user interface we take for granted (the Mac OS), you'd be staring at an amber or green-blinking C:/> prompt right now, instead of reading this.

If Apple hadn't either invented or been the first to bring to market these things which we take for granted today, they might never have come to be. If Tesla hadn't imagined all this unimaginable stuff in his mind's eye, we'd still be reading newspapers by candle or gas light.

The key is that none of this stuff just happens. A man needs to imagine it first, and then make it real. Mr. Tesla imagined most of this in his childhood, and spent most of his life making it real.

If not for dreamers, like Leonardo da Vinci, we just wouldn't have these things. People with this depth of vision don't happen every few years. These things, like great photographs, don't create themselves. They must be created.

Imagining the first one is what counts. Making a copy, as windows was with the Mac OS, or as numerous ugly MP3 players are of the iPod, is easy. If it wasn't for Mr. Jobs' insane artistic insistence on his way, Apple products would be cheaped-out little by little, and would become the same ugly boxes everyone else puts out to make a fast profit.

It is Mr. Jobs' insistence on making products we can figure out that is responsible for Apple products that just work, instead of being big messes no one can figure out, as are most consumer electronics products.

My Quad G5 and Mac Pro today are beautiful – even on the inside! When Mr. Jobs left Apple, it was all downhill until his return.

Folks at Apple told me years ago that the corporate thought structure is in place to ensure continued innovation should Mr. Jobs stop, but I suspect that if Mr. Jobs ever stopped (he is still the CEO and setting the course today, even while on leave), that the real innovation might stop after the pipeline empties a few years later. All we might get 5 years from now are the same thing, merely extrapolated.

It takes no imagination to extrapolate and say things like "a Nikon D800 will be FX and have 24MP," or that a new iPad will have a camera and 128GB capacity. (Why would I want a camera in my iPad? My Nikon is smaller!) Imagination is something totally crazy and unheard of, like replacing command-line Microsoft DOS with the point-and-click system Apple created that we all take for granted today. If Jobs were to leave, would the world stop where it is now? As far as Apple is concerned, I fear so, after the next few years' pipeline plays out. Ideas that change the world come from the imagination of one man at a time, not from committees or groups.

Did you know Steve Jobs works for Apple for only a dollar a year? When Steve Jobs asks us to respect his family's privacy so he can get a little time away, hasn't he more than earned this respect? Where I come from, if a man asks to be left alone for a bit, we leave him alone.


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