Apple bruised over Jobs health (non)disclosure

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
Apple CEO Steve Jobs jokes with the audience at a Sept. 2008 talk in San Francisco.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had received a liver transplant in Tennessee two months ago (and the hospital's confirmation) shook the technology world, and many – though sympathetic to Mr. Jobs' right to privacy – aren't pleased.

Apple at first said Jobs was fine, then Jobs himself called his condition minor in a note explaining his six month hiatus from daily duties at Apple. The company has yet to release a statement about his liver transplant.

Cult of Mac editor Leander Kahney says Apple ran afoul of SEC full disclosure requirements by understating the severity of Jobs' condition. Mr. Kahney quotes Dartmouth Corporate Communications professor Paul Argenti: "The difference between a nutritional imbalance and a liver transplant is huge,” he told Mr. Kahney. "If this is not a legal issue and a Regulation FD issue, I don’t know what is." SEC action or no, the biggest hit, according to Argenti, may be to Apple's credibility.

“Clearly, this is going to affect not only Apple’s customers but employees that were lied to or kept in the dark about what was going on,” Argenti said. “Apple is one of the most admired companies in America and this is how they deal with this kind of news? It’s unacceptable, unethical and irresponsible to all constituents.”

PC World's Robert X. Cringley reminds, as others have done before him, just how integral Jobs has become to the company he co-founded in 1976.

Jobs has quite deliberately made himself the public face of his company. His products don't speak for themselves, he speaks for them. And though thousands of talented people are involved in creating and marketing those products, Jobs is virtually the only one anybody sees.

Some, like Forbes' Sally Satel have used the high profile case as a springboard to examine organ donor rules and wait times, and to call for a challenge to the 1984 National Organ Transplant Act. She suggests calling it the "iLiver initiative."

That said, Jobs picked a pretty good time to return to work. Apple says it sold 1 million iPhones over the weekend. And even though the 3GS launch marked only a slight hardware improvement, the model outperformed the brand new Palm Pre several fold. All that, despite Jobs being absent for both the unveiling and the release of the new iPhone. What do you think, readers; is this a sign that Apple can continue on without Jobs?

The Monitor examined organ donor issues in its 2004 series: What is a kidney worth?

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