Apple: Steve Jobs Was Ill, Now He's Fine. But We Won't Say That On The Record (AAPL)

After describing Steve Jobs’ health as a “private matter” during Monday’s earnings call — and sparking even more discussion about Steve’s health — Apple appears to be trying a new tactic: Unofficially spreading the word, via the press, that Steve is OK.

A source “close to Apple” told BusinessWeek that they have “near-certainty that Jobs’ cancer has not returned.” And the NYT reports that “Jobs has reassured several people that he is doing well and that four years after a successful operation to treat a rare form of pancreatic cancer, he is cancer free.”

That’s great to hear. But the Times story, citing Apple sources, also notes that Jobs has been suffering from “nutritional problems in the wake of his cancer surgery”, and that earlier this year “he had a surgical procedure this year to address a problem that was contributing to a loss of weight.” In other words: Anyone who thought Steve Jobs looked unhealthy this year isn’t imagining it — the problem is serious enough that Steve has gone under the knife.

Apple is now is in an unpleasant bind, one that we don’t see getting resolved soon: Its CEO, for reasons we can sympathize with, doesn’t want to open up his medical records to the world. But because the company can’t or won’t come out and emphatically state that he’s in good health, his condition is going to remain under scrutiny. And if you don’t believe us, ask the Wall Street Journal:

The dearth of information has led investors to do their own digging over the years. In 2004, one hedge fund hired private investigators to tail Mr. Jobs to hospital appointments in the hopes of figuring out how sick he was, said a portfolio manager at the fund. Eventually, he said, Mr. Jobs “seemed to catch on,” and became harder to track.

More recently, hedge-fund managers said Tuesday, fund managers have talked of asking doctors to closely analyse pictures of Mr. Jobs to monitor changes in his physical appearance, and have been talking about once again hiring investigators to find out Mr. Jobs’s prognosis.

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