Confirmed: Steve Jobs Prioritizes Health Above Macworld

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Answering recent coverage about his health, Steve Jobs has published this letter. Looks like our source was partly right: Jobs' condition was the a reason for his Macworld no-show. But he will get healthier. Updated

Dear Apple Community,

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.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I've decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been "robbing" me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

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. I will continue as Apple's CEO during my recovery.

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. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.

So now I've said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.


Without the pretty prose, this is what Jobs' letter in chronological order:

1. His weight and health was declining through 2008.
2. He recently decided to exclusively focus on discovering the reason of his declining health instead of his company.
3. The doctors think now that they have discovered the reason.
4. He has already begun a treatment to fix his illness.
5. Doctors expect him to be fully cured in spring.


What does this mean? First and foremost, that his health is not declining rapidly now, as our source affirmed. Thank god for that. Like I said in the original article, I hoped our source was wrong about this point, and it was.

The source's information was probably from earlier in the year. While Steve Jobs weight and health was declining during 2008, the doctors "think" they have now found the cause of his declining health. He has "already begun" a "relatively simple and straightforward" treatment. He also says he is recovering.


That's excellent news.

Our source was right that a big part of the reason why Steve Jobs is not doing the Macworld 2009 keynote is his health. The letter above states that he's putting priority #1, his health, ahead of doing the last Macworld Keynote. The truth, as written by Steve Jobs himself, is that he has to recover from a medical condition. He didn't want to put himself through the ordeal of preparing the keynote-the hardest part-and delivering it for two hours. That's why he decided to take time off with his family and keep recovering.


While there are plenty of other reasons why it makes sense to put other executives on stage — to let the public know that there are other capable people leading apple, for one, or because the products this year are not worthy of Steve's presentation — none of them make as much sense as this personal decision. Apple PR muscle tried to mislead the public again saying that the entire reason was the irrelevance of Macworld. They said they didn't want to give importance to a show that Apple was pulling away from.

Other media, actually only CNBC's Jim Goldman and some followers, railed against Gizmodo saying that Steve's health had nothing to do with him not showing up for the Macworld keynote:

I spoke to Apple after these headlines crossed and the company, which officially doesn't comment on rumors, reiterated the reasons it offered two weeks ago: Apple was pulling out of Macworld because the company didn't see the need to continue its investment in the expo, which included Steve Jobs' keynote.


While I can understand Apple not telling the truth, perhaps a brilliant journalist and blogging aficionado like Goldman should have known better than trusting Apple's VP of Worldwide Corporate Communications Katie Cotton, specially when she lied before. On the other side, coming from a guy who writes things like this:

AppleTV, take two, has a real shot. The power of technology. The power of Apple and Steve Jobs.


Well, I'm not surprised.

Click to viewAnyway, who cares. I'm happy to know Steve is recovering and happy to know that he's doing fine despite his weight loss and health problems. I'm happy to know that his doctors have discovered the cause now, and he has already begun treatment. I-and everyone at Gizmodo-wish his recovery process goes perfectly well and that this spring he's again in top form.


Update: Apparently Jim Goldman is kind of correcting his previous story on CNBC now. He said that if they he didn't have information that contradicts what Apple is saying, he had to take the company at its word. He's also saying that Steve can be sick but still be able to function as CEO and talking about people who can "easily step in" as CEO: "There are people who can take over, when...if...he decides to leave."

[2:30 PST, 1/6/09: A quick note from me, Brian, about this post, which I've been thinking about a bit more in between the busy days this week planning for CES and Macworld.


A day later, I have a bit more hindsight on how we could have edited this to be a bit more clearly presented. While the letter above does not factually and outright state that Jobs choose to work on his health instead of Macworld, we find it reasonable to conclude that this is the case, however unpleasant it is to think about.

Allow me to explain the thought process behind this line of reasoning then to people from fellow publications and readers wondering how we came to this conclusion when there is no explicit sentence, just implicit messages, stating such a thing. A proper challenge deserves a response, and I'd like to thank everyone who wrote or discussed the piece's finer points with us.


Ever since we heard that Steve Jobs would not be presenting at Macworld, we were dumbfounded. Sure, Apple was pulling away from the show, and next year, they aren't doing a keynote at all. But this year, the Keynote did go on, and the tradition for over 10 years, was for Steve to present, no matter what. Even when all he had to show was software, even when it was around the time he had cancer, he presented. Nothing could stop the man. Based on the text in this letter, which goes just short of contradicting the reasons outright that Apple stated before, and talks entirely about his health in the context of rumors and Macworld, we believe the only thing that could possible stop Jobs from presenting Macworld a company he has his all to for "the past 11 years now", would be a new "number one" priority, his health. (The previous number one thing being Apple, the company he's given everything to.) Although there are tons of pieces of speculation regarding the other reasons for him not to present at Macworld — distribution of responsibility to execs to reduce the appearance of dependence on jobs, Jobs refusing to present without better products, an Apple/IDG disagreement over the keynote — none of them seem powerful enough to break 11 years of tradition, especially in the tradition's twilight year.

We consider our source half right because he did make the call that Steve is sick again, and that was a reason for him not presenting at the keynote. We consider that he got it — and we got it — half wrong because his information said that he was "declining rapidly", which isn't true any longer since he found a fix for his weight loss. [Update:As is was demonstrated later, what Brian's saying wasn't true and the story was, sadly, 100% right. He was truly sick at this time but Brian decided to believe Apple's official line—JD] But it was all done to the best of our ability with a source who has checked out multiple times, and hedged because it would be disingenuous to actually say we knew the truth here. No one does but Steve and his doctor and close friends. And the fact that he was sick at all is a revelation brought about by these series of posts. Even if improving, his health is not great. That is news.


Remember: Apple's line of reasoning here was that Macworld was not cool enough to attend any more. They didn't need Macworld. That may be true, but its crazy to think that this or any of the weaker reasons above are the primary causes here for him to not present. We believe only health, his number one priority, could stop such a grand tradition, in its twilight year. And this letter Steve wrote, a huge letter outlining his current state of health, backs that up and lends massive credibility to the theory above all others.

Perhaps the majority of the word count is about his health because he's only focusing on this in response to the rumors, and dismissing the other minor factors in the decision. But that doesn't change the fact that the letter above so strongly alludes, more than any other interpretation you can dream up, that health was his primary personal factor. People who disagree might wonder why he didn't outright say he was not doing Macworld because of his health. But these people should stop to think that he couldn't say this was the main reason, because it would contradict previous statements by Apple. He spared them the actual position of having lied, but I think if you read between the lines, and even read the lines, you can see that this letter is about macworld and his health and the interchange in priorities the man has regarding the two. They've swapped.


But these reasons above are why I back up Jesús Diaz's analysis, reading between the lines and following our source, just as we did last week when we published the fully disclosed, single source rumor about his health being a reason for him not attending macworld in the first place. Even if I would have written it a bit more softly in the first place, I did not edit it to such a state when I got the story in my hands. That's my fault.

As a personal note, I fucking hate this story. I despise writing about the man's health, and that's perhaps a conflict in professional and personal sentiment and responsibility I will never rectify.


I wish we'd never gotten that tip, personally, although I very much appreciate the tipster. Happy new year, and wishes for good health to Steve and everyone reading this post.]

[Macworld 2009 coverage]