The New York Times article on Steve Jobs' health is making quite a stir today. Fred Wilson, who has already made his feelings known on this issue, had this to say...
Steve Jobs is an arrogant fuck who thinks he's above the law. He's also the most amazing technology CEO/entrepreneur working right now. He's way better than Bill Gates (who isn't working anymore) and the Google duo in my book.
Apple and Steve are at the top of their game, pushing the envelope in so many ways. But Steve is wrong to try to hide his personal health from the media, the market, his customers, and his employees.
Steve's health is not a private matter as much as he'd like it to be. Apple's stock is off between 15-20% in the past 45 days in the midst of one of the most powerful product cycles (iPhone) we've witnessed in the tech business.
On Steve Jobs' Health I'll say one thing and one thing only.
Steve Jobs has no responsibility to reveal anything about his health BUT Apple has acted irresponsibly here.
This isn't hard folks, Jobs' answers to the board and he has a responsibility to disclose issues to them. You are not on the Apple board, so he has no responsibility to you. In fact, just the opposite is true. Telling the world of a possible problem would only give the competition an advantage making it the absolute last thing he should do.
With that said, where Jobs' and the board have failed is in allowing Apple to become the "Cult of Steve". That is really the issue here.
The stock is falling not because Jobs' has a health crisis but because he's set up no backup plan should he have to step down.
THAT is the point. But that isn't as much a failing of Jobs' as it is a failure of the rest of Apple's governance. A corporate system works on the principle that employees are mercenaries in regards to their own circumstance but that they collectively act in the interest of the company. So while each employee will try to get as much as they can when it is time to negotiate their personal circumstances they will act in the interest of the company when negotiating with every other employee.
Apple's board has been remiss in letting Jobs' run the place like his own personal fiefdom which has now resulted in the outside world thinking Apple has no future without him. But in that scenario Jobs' was acting exactly like he should as an employee. It is Apple's board that has really failed stock holders.
The Quick Aside About Quoting Fred Wilson...I quote Fred Wilson because I have a history of commenting on him and this issue and I think his comments here illuminate something about the "Transparency Movement" that's important.
It is one thing to say "I believe in being transparent" or "I would like to share all my health information publicly" (as Mr. Wilson has said he would like to do). But it is quite another to say "I demand that same behavior from everyone else" which is exactly what Mr. Wilson is saying...
The technology revolution that Steve has had so much to do with has changed a lot of things and one of them is transparency. You can't hide stuff anymore. So honesty is the best policy.
So when I speak out about transparency keep in mind that part of the reason I'm so against it is because I know the people who endorse the idea are also those who would demand it of the rest of the world.