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Jobs gets scrutiny, like his products

The lean physique of Apple's CEO raises health questions. The official word: He's fine.

June 11, 2008|Michelle Quinn | Times Staff Writer

Steve Jobs and the new iPhone he unveiled Monday are facing the same question: How thin are they really?

First, people wondered whether the iPhone 3G was thinner or fatter than its predecessor. Answer: thinner on the edges and thicker in the middle.

Now, it's Jobs' turn. The buzz at the Apple developers conference in San Francisco and on blogs afterward was that Apple Inc.'s 53-year-old chief executive looked leaner than in previous public appearances. His physique inspired speculation about whether Jobs, who battled pancreatic cancer in 2003, was again suffering from health troubles.

After his keynote address, investors and Apple fans scrutinized Jobs' appearance almost as closely as they did the new iPhone.

One tech analyst, who declined to be named out of fear of angering Apple, said that after seeing photos of Jobs from the event, his clients searched the Web for old pictures of him. Their conclusion: If he were a boxer, he'd be fighting in a lower weight class.

Turns out, Jobs has been a little sick, according to an Apple spokeswoman. She said he was recovering from a "common bug that he got two weeks ago" and was taking antibiotics. "He didn't want to miss" the developers conference, she said.

It's a sign of Apple's huge success and Jobs' importance to the Cupertino, Calif.-based company that observers discuss his health as if he were gunning for the White House.

But is it fair to Jobs and his family? One could argue that he has the right to a private life -- except when it concerns the fate of the company to which he is so inextricably tied. After all, this is a man who closely controls every decision Apple makes and has overseen its restoration to the ranks of the world's top technology firms.

But does that mean people have a right to know his current body mass index?

Old anxieties about Jobs and his health were fanned this year after a Fortune magazine story described how Jobs and Apple's board hid his cancer diagnosis for months while he fought the disease. Jobs beat the cancer after an operation. The board's silence didn't give investors and Apple fans any comfort that the company would disclose the information if Jobs were to become sick again.

For now, the official word is that Jobs is like his new iPhone: Thin at the edges, but still robust.

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michelle.quinn@latimes.com

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