Jobs’ Health Watch Has Bloggers in a Frenzy

Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Source: Reuters

Is Steve Jobs near death? Or is the Apple CEO, as one tech blogger reported, still enjoying his yogurt? Or is any speculation about Jobs’ health, as one industry pundit declared, all “unsourced garbage” aimed at influencing Apple’s share price?

For Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) fans, the big story this week has been the latest chapter in the long saga of the health of the company’s iconic chief executive — or, more accurately, the rampant speculation surrounding it.

The topic of Jobs’ health has repeatedly cropped up this year thanks to a slew of reports and rumors that the Apple chief, who underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer four years ago, was again in poor health. Those rumors persist in part because bloggers and industry watchers maintain that Apple has a reputation for being slow in updating the public on Jobs’ health: His October 2003 diagnosis of pancreatic cancer hadn’t been disclosed until after his surgery.

Now, Apple watchers are jumping to the latest round of gossip about Jobs’ health, following the company’s recent declaration that it would cease participating in the annual Macworld confab, and that Jobs would not be delivering his traditional keynote.

A report on technology blog Gizmodo yesterday cited an unnamed source who claimed that Jobs was again ailing, which had prompted Apple to back out of Macworld.

“Apple is choosing to remove the hype factor strategically, versus letting the hype destroy Apple when the inevitable news comes later this spring,” the source said, according to the report by Jesus Diaz, a senior associate editor at Gizmodo. “This strategic loss will be less of a bang with investors. This is why Macworld is a no-go anymore.”

The report sent Apple’s share price reeling, although the company’s stock has since rebounded to within $1 of its peak yesterday before the Gizmodo report. At press time, shares of AAPL are trading up 0.85 percent at $86.90.

Guardian blogger Jack Schofield jumped on the report, offering a tongue-in-cheek solution for the Jobs health watch:

“Well, it would be pretty simple to rig Steve up with health-monitoring equipment so everybody could track his condition on a minute-by-minute basis. The results could be distributed via a special How’s Steve? icon on the iPhone,” Schofield wrote. “Or, of course, Apple could sell tickets.”

The Gizmodo report also inspired some intrepid on-the-scene reporting from tech bloggers. Blogosphere celebrity Robert Scoble reported yesterday that employees at a yogurt shop that Jobs supposedly frequents have seen him in recent days — and that he’s in “great health.” The report is now circulating far and wide on the Internet — and inspiring a new round of speculation.

Dan Frommer, at Silicon Alley Insider, said he believes Scoble’s yogurt report is “plausible” and “better” than the information from Gizmodo’s source.

But CNBC’s Jim Goldman, at the site’s Tech Check blog, also isn’t convinced that Jobs’ health is on the wane — and seems more than a bit miffed over the rumors. He declared Jobs is fine and scoffed at what he called the Gizmodo “rumor fiasco.”

“Never mind the Gizmodo report was flimsy at best. Never mind the blog seemed to distance itself from its own report,” Goldman wrote.

Apple spokespeople did not return‘s requests for comment by press time.

Steve Jobs
Jobs responds to a false CNN iReport on his health. Source: Reuters

Jobs watch: The saga continues

Speculation about Jobs’ health reached a fevered pitch after the executive’s gaunt appearance during the company’s annual developers’ conference in June, which led to speculation that he was suffering complications from his earlier surgery or a reappearance of his cancer.

Apple said at the time that Jobs had been fighting a “common bug” and was taking antibiotics.

That hadn’t quieted the rumors, which continued to surface following a series of additional, inaccurate, reports on his condition. In August, the Bloomberg news service accidentally published an obituary for Jobs — which the Apple chief later laughed off during a presentation of new iPods and updates to iTunes. Rumors about Jobs’ health flared up again in October, however, when a fake report on CNN’s iReport site claimed that Jobs had suffered a heart attack. (Jobs later poked fun at that report, too.)

In the newest round of speculation, however, some can’t help but touch on Apple’s role in the story, given its ongoing reluctance to comment on the condition of its top executive and its most famous employee.

“Do I like the way Apple has handled this ongoing story? No. But do I traffic in rumors to fill the void the company has created by not choosing to be more forthcoming about Jobs’ health? Absolutely not,” Goldman wrote. “When Apple’s got something material to report, I trust that it will. Meantime, unsourced garbage nuking its shares is just that.”

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