Could Steve Jobs’ leave of absence be more serious this time around?

This morning, Apple revealed that its CEO and leader in every sense of the word, Steve Jobs, will be taking a medical leave of absence for an unspecified amount of time. While the news is shocking, it’s also apparently not completely unexpected. According to the New York Times, Steve Jobs “has looked increasingly frail” in recent months. Apple’s CEO was reportedly supposed to be at Verizon’s iPhone announcement event last week as well, and coupled with the delay of the new iPad digital newspaper The Daily, it’s beginning to look like there is something more to the story.

Here’s is Jobs’ letter when he took a six-month leave beginning in early 2009:

Team,

I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.

Steve

And here is Jobs’ letter from this morning:

Team,

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.

Steve

There are some subtle differences in the wording Jobs used this time around that could mean nothing — but they also could spell big trouble for Apple. First off, the open-ended nature of Steve’s email from this morning is troubling. This doesn’t sound like someone who will be back at Apple any time soon. Back in 2009, Jobs gave a finite timeline, stating that he would return at “the end of June,” but he’s leaving this one open-ended.

Jobs’ new leave also means that he will probably not be around to introduce important new products such as the iPad 2 or iPhone 5, which are both set to be announced in the coming months. Beyond that, the mention that Apple’s executive management team will handle the “the exciting plans we have in place for 2011″ seems to indicate that Jobs might not be back in 2011, and he’s setting expectations subtly.

We sincerely hope Steve Jobs gets better, and fast. We’re just still a little bit in shock from the news — it unfortunately doesn’t look good.

blog comments powered by Disqus