The idea of Steve Jobs returning to Apple and delivering Christmas in July made of shiny new iPhones and iPods gained strength Wednesday, based on the "other" Steve's assessment that Jobs' sounds "healthy" and "energetic."
Steve Wozniak's health report, given to the Wall Street Journal, is the first outside assessment of Job's condition since the Apple CEO went into seclusion in mid-January after saying a hormonal imbalance would require more intensive therapy that previously expected.
Jobs promised to return from his voluntary leave-of-absence at the "end of June," but concern that his pancreatic cancer might have returned has kept Jobs' health in the spotlight. His decision not to keynote Apple's developer conference in early June only added to speculation that Jobs might not return.
Wozniak's assessment comes as good news to a world counting on Jobs' innovation and leadership to propel Apple forward. If true, it also explains why Apple is delaying introducing new products, even though the Palm Pre is due to arrive on June 6, two days ahead of Apple's event.
A healthy, rested, and ready Steve Jobs might be an even more dramatic "introduction" than the new products Apple is expected to release. If Jobs returns at the end of June, a July introduction would make sense.
If Woz is right, and there is no real reason to doubt the Apple co-founder, then Steve Jobs will return and all will again be right in Apple's world. Right, but not perfect, Jobs is still a cancer survivor and, like us all, he is getting older (he's 54 now).
While Apple has a presumably long and strong product pipeline and seems poised to benefit from the return of its maximum leader, it still lacks a clear strategy for what happens in a post-Jobs world.
I hope this health scare, if that's all it turns out to be, will convince Jobs to promote some of the talented people around him more into the public spotlight and to replace some of his reputed dictatorial micromanaging with a more collegial style. No one expects Apple to become the old collegial HP, but it is in everyone's interest to start positioning Apple for Jobs' eventual retirement.
Woz may have finally ended the Steve Jobs Death Watch. The world would be a better place if the drama had ended sooner. A healthy Steve Jobs will be a most welcome sight.