Update 9:23 a.m. PST: This story was revised to clarify that Apple did not make any explicit connection between Steve Jobs' health and the decision for him not to give the Macworld keynote address.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is lying low rather than giving his traditional Macworld keynote speech Tuesday, with health issues apparently a partial factor in the decision even as he and the company avoid an explicit statement to that effect.
In letter to employees, Jobs wrote this Monday:
For the first time in a decade, I'm getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.
He goes on to explain that, amid sometimes intense speculation about the state of his health, his doctors have identified "a hormone imbalance that has been 'robbing' me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy." He adds:
The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I've already begun treatment. But, just like I didn't lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it.
Throughout 2008 Apple was plagued with rumors about Jobs' health, but steadfastly refused to acknowledge that anything was behind concerns over what many believed was substantial weight loss suffered by the iconic Apple founder. Apple stunned onlookers in December with the news that Jobs would be skipping his much-anticipated Macworld keynote, but said the reason was that Apple had decided not to invest in a Macworld keynote because it would be the company's last year at the show.
It's possible to read between the lines and see Jobs' health as more of a factor in the Macworld decision than Apple is letting on. But the company on Monday would say only that Jobs "deserves our complete and unwavering support during his recuperation," with no mention of Macworld in its 90-word statement.
Jobs will continue as CEO while he is regaining weight in what he called a "simple and straightforward" remedy, which is expected to last until late spring, he said in the letter. "I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple's CEO."
The startling possibility that Apple and Jobs knew several weeks ago that health concerns had become his number one priority calls into question the company's handling of Jobs' absence from Macworld. There are no hard-and-fast guidelines that dictate how companies are supposed to handle health concerns, the way strict guidelines dictate the handling of material financial information.
But it's clear to anyone with a pulse in the tech industry that a health-related reason for a Jobs-less keynote would be a huge blow to Apple's stock. Apple representatives refused to answer questions about Jobs' health when the news first surfaced in December, insisting that the only reason Jobs would be absent from the keynote was because the company was done with Macworld.
There was a lot more to the story. We'll be following up on the implications of this news all day.
Updated 6:43am PT: Apple's stock has rallied on the news, once again validating my career decision to stay away from stock-picking. In the first 15 minutes of trading, the stock is up around 4 percent, which is perhaps an indication that since Jobs' health situation is not as dire as some reports had suggested last week, investors are confident he'll continue as CEO.