Steve Jobs retired on Wednesday. Kind of. Well, not really. He stepped down as CEO of Apple but remains as Chairman of the Board and official Ghost of Apple Past, Present, and Probably Future. That is not a comment about the state of his health, but an opinion about his state of influence over the company he helped found, got kicked out of, and eventually resurrected like a be-turtlenecked version of Gandalf the White.
Because, let's face it—Steve is in Apple's blood. Or, as they like to say, in the company's DNA. And I suspect that's true. After all, the man was smart enough to hire a bunch of like-minded people on this second tour of Cupertino. So I don't think we'll see the Scullyfication of Apple again any time soon, which is a very good thing.
But, more importantly, Apple is in Steve's DNA. And to think that he's hanging up his soldering gun or cattle prod (set on "engineer") and riding off into the sunset on a Woz Signature Edition Segway is a bit much. My guess, and it really is just a guess, is that Steve has relinquished all of the odious, tedious duties to which a CEO must attend so that he can focus whatever energy he does have on the gear. Because why wouldn't he? Unless his health has seriously deteriorated—and sources within the Apple campus say he looks pretty much the same as he has (not great, but no worse)—he isn't going to wander the globe in search of a renewable source of denim. Wait, cotton is renewable. Never mind.
If Steve really meant to leave Apple, he would not have requested to remain as its titular Frank Sinatra. He would've packed up his family, shuttered his Silicon Valley compound and skedaddled off to one of his many secret island lairs. He buys a new one with each dot-release of OS X, in case you didn't know. But he didn't do that. He stayed on board, ready to assume a bridge position on the new NC-10.7.2 U.S.S. Appleship whenever it rises above the northern California hills.
Why? Well, I don't think it's that complex of a psychological issue. Steve Jobs likes to make stuff. He's always made stuff. He's figured out how to make stuff that people literally pledge allegiance to. And, like most men, he's not prone to give that up until he's, well, permanently prone. Which, I personally and somewhat selfishly hope, may not be for a long, long time. I also hope he has a hand in more creations like the iPhone as opposed to Ping, but nobody's perfect. And nobody sticks around forever.
But as Steve may quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "I'm not dead yet!" So, let's relax a bit before we collectively shuffle the man off to the land of the Cube. Pray for his health. And for Jonathan Ive's, too.
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