Apparently even when off the job, Apple's divisive, but brilliant leader Steve Jobs is still on the job. At a one hour annual shareholder meeting held at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, executives said that while Jobs was away, he still was putting in a great deal of work directing the company behind the scenes. They said that he was deeply involved in their decision making process.
Steve Jobs, who founded Apple and guided it through its two most successful spans -- the Apple II/Mac era and then the iProduct era -- had been the subject of wild rumors last year, when he appeared gaunt and sickly at public appearances. He initially brushed off the concerns, eventually breaking his silence this January to say he had hormonal problems, which he was receiving treatment for. However, later in January he announced that he was taking a leave of absence until June, citing that his medical issues were "more complex" than previously expected.
The news launched wild speculation, as Jobs was diagnosed in 2004 with a rare kind of pancreatic cancer, which he received treatment for and apparently had fully recovered from. Many wonder -- and still do -- whether Apple could continue its recent successes without Jobs' guiding hand.
However, Apple's top executives went on record at the meeting to state that "nothing has changed" with Jobs' health. They also declined address recent allegations that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company's disclosures of Jobs' health problems for possible misconduct.
Even if Apple's executives don't find themselves in trouble with the SEC, if Jobs' health deteriorates the company may find itself with a slew of lawsuits from shareholders over its disclosures, according to legal experts. Apple is in a tricky position as medical disclosures are a gray area of the law, so shareholders could sue if Apple declared too much (potentially causing Apple stock to plunge) or too little (causing shareholders to retain stocks for lack of information).
Apple's shareholders weren't just worried about Jobs, though. They were also concerned about how the company plans to stay competitive in the currently bleak economy with expensive notebooks and iPods, which some say are overpriced. Apple's leadership deflected most of these questions as well, avoiding the issue of slumping computer sales and pointing to successes like the iPhone.
Despite the doom and gloom mood at the meeting, the shareholders did perk up a bit when one of the executives suggested they all sing happy birthday to Steve Jobs, who turned 54 on Tuesday. While they didn't get to see their leader, the song seemed to take shareholders minds off Apple's pressing problems, if only for a moment.