Steve Wozniak, the "other Steve" that people associate with Apple, but not in the cultish near-godlike way people think of Steve Jobs, appeared on CNBC recently, and was asked about his opinion on Steve Jobs' health as well as his privacy.
Also appearing on the show were Sarah Lacy (Business Week) and Matt Richtel (the New York Times). Lacy indicated in just one question just why the private life of Steve Jobs seems to have reached celebrity status and interest.
Lacy:"He is such a part of the value of that stock. So looking at it as a business story, it's really hard for us not to cover it. I know you feel we should get out of his business, but do you at least grant the position business have been in there and market reporters?"
And Wozniak addressed that by stating that Jobs will give investors the information they require, but that "no matter how much he gave in explanations and explanations and explanations, there will be a lot of people who keep wanting more and more and what am I not getting."
Richtel hit the nail on the head on investors fears:
"How instrumental is he, per se, to the success of the business? That is the question that's driving investor curiousity."
To that, Wozniak brought up the 1 - 2 year pipeline of Apple (and most technology) products, and that those won't be disturbed by Jobs' absence. And he also noted that a break may allow Jobs to clear his mind and in fact, come up with still better ideas.
At a question about Jobs' leaving the company, Wozniak said it was waaay too hypothetical, adding:
“Obviously Steve’s very important, but Apple has some incredible people, too, that are almost, in a way, followers of the Apple mentality, followers of Steve himself."
Asked about Jobs' role in products such as the iPhone and iPod, Wozniak said:
"You can go back 10, 15 years and listen to things Steve said about where does excellence in products come from, and you can look at the timeframe since then, and largely one careful sees, has the clear vision, and not large conglomerations of people. But I read just like you. Almost every product, a lot of the key aspects of it are attributed to Steve.
I watch him once in a while around the campus; he's up on people doing early stages of the work, and making sure people refine things and get it as excellent as possible.
He’s a great individual, but there’s an awful lot that are around him at Apple that obviously, you know, learned some good techniques. So, the culture of a company can be ongoing even when he’s away."
So there's the conundrum: in his prior answer, Wozniak implied that there were plenty of other talented people at Apple, yet that stement that "he's up on early stages of the work" tells us what we already know: Apple is very top-down and thus nearly everything passes through Jobs.
It should be noted that a CNBC poll on this issue showed a 50 - 50 split among respondents as to whether or not CEOs like Steve Jobs have the right to keep serious illnesses private. There are over 1000 respondents at the time of this writing.