Since 2008, I’ve seen an anorexic Mr Steve Jobs at each Apple event I’ve attended.
Apple’s chief executive was not suffering from the effects of extreme dieting. He was experiencing the after-effects of a liver transplant in early 2009. He was on six-month medical leave before returning to work at the end of June 2009. Apple’s media releases then said that he was on the mend and was healthy.
The last time I saw him during the unveiling of the iPhone 4 in June last year, he still appeared gaunt. His collar bones continued to stick out of his black turtleneck T-shirt but he looked fresh and had a bounce to his walk.
Monday's announcement that he is taking medical leave again - with no end in sight - is worrying. While he remains CEO, he has handed day-to-day operations to Mr Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer.
Over the next few days, there will be a flurry of predictions, as to how Mr Jobs’ health will impact on both Apple and the iconic gizmos it creates.
But I believe that consumers waiting for the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5 this year, will not be disappointed.
Those who follow Apple will know that the company works on long lead times. Features of these products and how they look and feel, would have been decided long ago. Mr Job’s absence notwithstanding, key product plans for this year will proceed as planned.
The iPad 2 can be expected around April, a year after the first version hit store shelves. It will be probably be followed by the iPhone 5 around June during the World Wide Developers’ Conference usually held in San Francisco.
I expect the two gadgets to be as special - and popular - as previous Apple products, but their public presentations will not be the same without Mr Jobs.
Mr Phil Schindler - Apple’s marketing honcho who is likely to introduce them - will do a fair job. But few can match the presentation brilliance of the charismatic Mr Jobs.
A post-Jobs era is hard to conceive but the man is mortal. Mr Jobs has been synonymous with the company and is responsible for nurturing it into the largest tech company with its slate of iOS devices - iPod, iPhone, iPad and iTunes - and its Macintosh computers.
Its market capitalisation of US$319.66 billion (S$409 billion) is larger than that of Microsoft, Google or IBM.
For such a large corporation, it is odd that Apple’s Board of Directors has not done more to make its grooming of and/or a search for a successor, more public.
It must assure its investors and customers, that Apple has a plan for the post-Jobs era. I hope that the Board will soon commence on the succession plan.
Internally, Mr Cook seems to be in the running. He has Mr Jobs' trust.
He ran the company without a hitch the first time Mr Jobs went on medical leave in early 2009. But is he the anointed CEO-in-waiting?
Mr Cook is an excellent manager to lead a senior management team that has become a formidable product and marketing group in the last few years.
The extra punch Mr Cook has, is Mr Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice-president of industrial design.
Mr Ive has been behind the look and feel of successful products such as the iPhone and iPad.
A Cook-Ive combination would be a good pairing to lead Apple forward if the post-Jobs era is ushered in sooner than later.