Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs, a year after getting a liver transplant that saved his life, is back at work full tilt, overseeing product development, leading a campaign against Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash and endorsing a California law that promotes organ donations.
While he remains thin and talks with acquaintances about his struggle to put on weight, Jobs is coping well with his health issues following last year’s surgery, according to people close to him who asked not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak for Jobs or Apple.
Jobs’s hands-on approach to Apple’s operations instills confidence among investors, who credit him with making the once- ailing computer maker a leader in smartphones and digital music. They’re relying on his attention to detail as Apple closes in on Microsoft Corp. as the most valuable U.S. technology company and embarks on a battle with Google Inc. in mobile advertising.
“Except for the fact that he’s lost a lot of weight, he’s the Steve Jobs of old,” said Tim Bajarin, who has followed Apple for more than two decades as founder of technology consulting firm Creative Strategies in Campbell, California. “At the visionary level, technology and design level, he seems to be working at the same level as he was before he was sick. If I was an investor, I’d be thrilled.”
Jobs has been answering customer e-mails, ruminating on everything from technical issues to the fragility of life, according to exchanges on Apple fan blogs. While releasing the iPad tablet and unveiling iPhone software, the 55-year-old Jobs has stepped up acquisitions in a race with Google for mobile technologies and engineering talent. He recently vacationed in Hawaii, said two people familiar with his schedule.
‘Jobs Is Back’
“Steve Jobs is back and I think he’s invigorated because of the release of the iPad,” said Michael Yoshikami, who oversees about $1 billion, including Apple shares, as chief investment strategist for YCMNet Advisors in Walnut Creek, California. “He’s fully operational.”
Jobs, who underwent surgery for a rare form of cancer in 2004, took a 5 1/2-month leave of absence in January 2009 after revealing that a hormone imbalance was “robbing me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy.”
Jobs had his liver transplant in March 2009, traveling to a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, because no liver donors were available in his home state of California. In September, he said his new liver came from a person in their mid-20s who had died in a car crash.
The experience prompted Jobs, who doesn’t even have license plates on his car, to talk publicly about his transplant. In March, he described reaching out to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to back new state legislation aimed at encouraging organ donations.
“There were simply not enough livers in California to go around,” Jobs said at a March 19 event at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. “I was lucky enough to get a liver in time.”
He’s open enough to discussing his life that he’s cooperating on a biography. Former Time magazine editor Walter Isaacson, author of best-selling biographies on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, is writing the book, with cooperation from Apple’s usually recalcitrant CEO.
“Every time I hear him, he’s doing a lot of work and a lot of thinking that’s involved in that work, and those things sort of go away if you’re very worried about your health,” said Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who says he speaks periodically to Jobs.
The doctor who performed Jobs’s transplant, James Eason of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, said he had experience treating the rare cancer -- called a neuroendocrine tumor -- that Jobs says he had in 2004.
Although Eason won’t comment on the details of Jobs’s case because of medical ethics and privacy laws, he said in an August 2009 interview that he will perform a liver transplant on a neuroendocrine tumor patient only when he’s certain he can eliminate all of the spreading cancer. Eason said 91 percent of his patients have healthy livers one year after surgery, compared with a national average of 87 percent.
After Jobs returned to work in June 2009, Apple said he would work from home for a few days each week. Until January, sightings of the CEO were rare at Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, said an employee who asked not to be identified.
Since then, Jobs has been seen more frequently, taking some meals in the campus cafeteria, said three employees who asked not to be identified.
Apple declined to comment on Jobs’s schedule, spokesman Steve Dowling said. Jobs didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Out and About
Jobs has appeared at a handful of events, including the September debut of new iPod media players, January’s unveiling of the iPad, Apple’s shareholder meeting in February and an April 8 briefing on new software for the iPhone. He visited his hometown Apple store in Palo Alto when the iPad went on sale April 3, chatting with customers about the new gadget.
In March, Jobs attended the Academy Awards in Los Angeles with his wife, with bloggers posting photos of Jobs wearing a tuxedo instead of his trademark jeans and black turtleneck. That month he also was spotted meeting with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, at the Town and Country shopping center in Palo Alto.
Apple rose $2.53 to $256.52 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have soared 98 percent in the past year on investor enthusiasm for new products including the iPad.
In a statement last week, Jobs said the company sold its millionth iPad in 28 days.
“That’s less than half of the 74 days it took to achieve this milestone with iPhone,” Jobs said. “Demand continues to exceed supply.”
Jobs is taking an active interest in iPad apps, with members of Apple’s developer-relations team making sure that every program they approve will pass muster with Jobs, said one developer familiar with the process. In his case, Jobs wanted the app to be more interactive, the developer said.
While Jobs was on medical leave, he handed over day-to-day management to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook and other longtime executives, including Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer and marketing head Phil Schiller.
Though investors and analysts praised Cook and the team for running the company smoothly, one person who does business with Apple says Jobs’s absence was notable because the calm environment also spawned boring meetings that lacked creative tension.
Firing at Flash
Jobs is back to stirring things up with his current campaign to persuade mobile developers to bypass Adobe’s Flash video technology. On April 29, he penned a rare, 29-paragraph open letter explaining why Apple isn’t supporting the popular Flash format in the iPhone and iPad and has banned app developers from using Adobe’s development tools in its products.
His involvement in the Flash debate is a reminder that Jobs is “the visionary of the company,” said YMCNet’s Yoshikami. “This is an indication he’s resuming his normal pace, and that’s a good thing for Apple.”
Jobs, who co-founded Apple in 1976 at the age of 21, was ousted by the board in 1985 and returned to the money-losing computer maker in 1997 to engineer one of the most successful turnarounds in technology history.
Apple’s profit last year jumped 35 percent to $8.24 billion on a record $42.9 billion in sales. Earnings may rise to $12.2 billion this year, as sales surge to $58.5 billion, on demand for the iPhone, iPad and Macintosh computer, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts.
While other executives might have taken it easy after cancer surgery, Jobs stepped up an already intense work pace, a former Apple executive said. In the six years since his 2004 cancer surgery, Jobs pushed Apple into mobile phones with the iPhone, added thinner Mac notebooks and introduced the iPad.
In addition to his duties at Apple, Jobs also sits on the board at Walt Disney Co. He became the largest shareholder in the world’s biggest media company after it bought Jobs’s Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 for $8.06 billion.
“People like Steve Jobs have a different operating system from you and me,” said Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple employee who helped promote the Mac when it was released in 1984. “In his eyes, I don’t think anything is impossible.”