New Questions for Apple About Steve Jobs' Health and Product Delays

As reports emerge about delays of the next generation of iPads and iPhones, footage of the apparently ailing Apple chief have analysts wondering about the company's future

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Ahead of Apple's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, reports are surfacing that Apple's much-anticipated iPad2 and iPhone 5 may be delayed because of production bottlenecks and securing component supplies. The release of the next-generation iPad may be postponed from April to June because last-minute design changes forced component makers to modify their production processes, while the launch of the new iPhone may, for the first time, occur in September rather than in early summer because of issues with various suppliers. 

The concern about Apple's product pipeline comes shortly after Radar Online published video footage of a frail Steve Jobs leaving a cafe in Palo Alto, California with his wife on February 8--the same day, Radar claims, that Apple's CEO sought treatment at the Stanford Cancer Center. Radar describes Jobs as looking "gaunt" and "unsteady on his feet" as he headed to his car.

Back in January, Jobs announced that he would take a medical leave of absence for unspecified reasons, triggering a debate about whether he had an obligation to publicly disclose more detailed information about his medical condition. Jobs--who took leaves for pancreatic cancer surgery in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009--recently attended a dinner with President Obama and other Silicon Valley executives and has reportedly remained plugged in to Apple's business decisions through meetings at home and occasional visits to corporate headquarters.

What does the video tell us about Jobs's health and Apple's future? Business Insider's Henry Blodget says the images in the video "seem to support the conviction of some in Silicon Valley that Steve is getting worse, not better." Of course, just last Thursday, Jobs looked in good spirits while sitting next to President Obama at a dinner with other tech moguls. The Daily Mail notes that while photos of Jobs released last week have "already prompted financial analysts to ask serious questions about his health," investors are well aware of the CEO's medical problems and are "not likely to be shocked by internet reports." MarketWatch reports that Apple shareholders will vote on whether the company should be more transparent about its succession plans when they convene on Wednesday.

But there's another dimension to the debate surrounding the video, which was taken without Jobs's knowledge. Should the footage have been posted in the first place? Is the video an invasion of privacy or a legitimate news update on a CEO who has become synonymous with his company's products and success? Blodget says that the video is "painful" to watch and "feels like a morbid sort of voyeurism." He reflected on the difficulty in covering a "sensitive and uncomfortable topic" like this:

We respect Steve's desire for privacy, and we have always tried to approach the issue with the respect and decency it deserves. At the same time, Steve is still CEO of one of the most valuable and important companies in the world, and his condition and prognosis matter--not just to his family and friends but to Apple shareholders, employees, partners, and customers, as well. We do not agree with those who say "It's obvious that Steve is dying"--we're more hopeful than that--and we therefore view apparent changes in Steve's situation as news. We don't seek out this news, and, when it is bad, we certainly don't enjoy reporting it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.