Speculation about the health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been swirling for over a year. People are taking more notice of his physical appearane than the products he announces at his famous presentations. Apple has been characteristicly mum on the topic, giving no indication of Steve’s real condition.
Finally, this Sunday, Steve Jobs published a letter to the Apple community talking about the real reason for his obvious weight loss over the year. It’s obvious from the end of the letter it’s something he did not want to do. Steve Jobs has never liked talking about personal matters. The problem is Steve Jobs is no ordinary individual. He isn’t even an ordinary CEO. Jobs is a personality, a rock star if you will. When you are one of the most watched and popular CEO’s in corporate America, and when so much of the health and future of your company appears to rest on your shoulders, you’re going to get the increased scrutiny.
In the new social media world of increased transparency and openness, Apple is one of the worst companies. They do not play in this world. As innovative as their producs are, Apple marketing is as traditional as ever. The Apple community is amazingly strong and creates plenty of it’s own user generated content, but Apple almost never talks directly with the community. Apple gets away with it, though, because Jobs “reality distortion field” is so strong and their producs are so strong. But this may not last forever
Until Jobs finds a way to clone himself, Apple remains a cult of personality and when someday Jobs is forced to retire, Apple will have to find it’s way without him. If you want a good profile of Steve Jobs and his personality, I recommened reading The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. The book gives you a good idea of why Apple is the way it is. With Jobs gone, I think Apple will have to change. They will have to start using more social media tactics of transparancy and engadement with customers. My goodness, they might even have to start an actual blog.