The sudden announcement that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence has the Web abuzz with ominous predictions, abrasive judgments, and maybe even a few conspiracy theories. It would appear that the ongoing-and certainly sad-saga of the iconic Jobs' health battles has raised hackles of many a blogger, with much of the ire directed at Apple's handling of the affair.
New York Times' business columnist Joe Nocera takes Jobs to task for not being more up-front with his illness. While admitting that such discussions are inherently distasteful, Nocera argues that Jobs, as the leader of a publicly-traded corporation, has a responsibility to Apple shareholders to be more open about his illness.
"The time has come for Apple's board to take control of this subject from Mr. Jobs and do the right thing by the company's investors. Tell us, once and for all, what is going on with Mr. Jobs's health. Put the subject to rest. End the constant rumor-mongering. And then get back to the business of making the coolest products on earth," he writes.
Forbes' Brian Caulfield suspects that Jobs' temporary departure may lead to a flurry of lawsuits from investors irate over the sudden drop in Apple's share price. And a Bloomberg report takes the less-tactful hook of speculating whether Jobs will need to have his pancreas removed. The Apple CEO in 2004 was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, a disease that usually has an extremely low survival rate.
Another Bloomberg report contrasts the managerial styles of the brilliant-yet-abrasive Jobs, who's "prone to fits of passion, table pounding and screaming," to the far-mellower Tim Cook, who "never raises his voice." Cook, Apple's low-profile COO, will oversee Apple during Job's absence.
And a Wired story ponders whether Jobs will ever return to Apple at all. The piece by Brian X. Chen points to recent reports suggesting Jobs' account of his health is "unreliable," such as the Apple CEO's gaunt figure during recent public appearances.
Could the medical travails of any other corporate leader generate this much reaction? Almost certainly the answer is no, although Apple's cryptic handling of the matter has only worsened a complex and delicate issue.