Growing concerns about Steve Jobs

Tabloid magazine's alleged photos of Apple CEO outside cancer center sparks rumors

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One of the first things I did Friday morning when I saw coverage of President Obama's meeting with tech leaders in California Thursday night was search for pictures or video. Not of Obama, or Mark Zuckerberg or Eric Schmidt. I wanted to see how Steve Jobs looked.

Like most of us, I read that the National Enquirer was publishing photos of Jobs outside a cancer treatment center in Palo Alto, looking weak and emaciated. (The photos came out in the print edition of the magazine on Wednesday.) Jobs announced last month that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence to focus on his health. The Apple co-founder had pancreatic cancer in 2004, undergoing surgery, and had a liver transplant in 2009.

(Also see: While Jobs focuses on his health, Apple board must focus on its responsibility)

What I wanted to see from Thursday night's event was a picture of Jobs not taken by a guy in a parking lot with a zoom lens, something that could, well, tell me something about the tech legend's condition.

But there was only one photo from the event that pictured Jobs. In it you can see the Apple CEO seated to the left of President Obama. The picture is taken from behind and to the left, so in terms of offering a glimpse of Jobs, it was useless. You can't help but wonder why there are no other photos of Jobs from the event.

It feels ghoulish thinking that way, but it's human nature. I'm certainly not alone. Since the National Enquirer released the alleged pictures of Jobs on Wednesday, shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) have dropped 3.5 percent.

Granted, Apple on Wednesday hit another all-time high of 364.90 a share, and stocks bounce off ceilings. Plus there were other issues. The company endured a storm of criticism, not to mention possible interest from antitrust regulators, for its online content subscription policy.

But those situations pass. This feels different.

Steven Burke at CRN has a good piece about the business issues facing Apple because of concerns over Jobs's health. In it he quotes Jeff Matthews, general partner at Ram Partners LP, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund that "holds a meaningful amount of Apple shares":

"There is nothing good about this. It is not fun to talk about, but as an investor in the real world you have to look at everything. Jobs is the reason that Apple is where it is. This is something you need to pay attention to and understand."

That pretty much says it all, especially the first part: There is nothing good about this.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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