Apple’s (AAPL) Worldwide Developers Conference in early June could be the scene for two important announcements: The next version of the company’s wildly popular iPhone, and, potentially, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s retirement.
We have no information that Steve is stepping down as CEO. But it’s a possibility worth thinking about.
Jobs has been on medical leave since January, which is scheduled to last until “late June.” We haven’t seen any updates about Steve’s condition or involvement at Apple in a while. But it at least appears that Steve has not returned to work early.
One person involved with last week’s iPhone 3.0 preview event says Jobs — who is usually very involved with presentations — was not present during the planning process for the event. (At least to the extent that this person was involved.)
If Jobs does retire, that could put some pressure on Apple’s shares, which have soared 35% in the past two months.
We think investors have grown more comfortable with the idea of Apple COO Tim Cook as the company’s long-term leader. And more face time for execs like marketing head Phil Schiller and iPhone software head Scott Forstall has been helpful to show off Apple’s talented executive “bench.” As we said this morning, Apple is kicking butt without Steve.
But Jobs is still as closely associated with Apple as any founder is with any company in the world — and losing Jobs permanently as day-to-day leader would be much different than a six-month medical leave. As we argued in January, Jobs might not write code or sit in chip fabs. But he makes the big, important decisions that make Apple products Apple products. New decision-makers might make choices Steve wouldn’t make. Talent could leave. Etc.
We asked an Apple rep whether Jobs is still planning to return in June, as he announced in January. Apple’s response, via email: “As you know, Steve is on a medical leave of absence and there is nothing further to say.”