Will photo-ops of gaunt Jobs overshadow sleek, camera-friendly iPad 2?

Mar 2, 2011
Finance

There doesn’t seem much debate over what comes next at Apple’s (AAPL) press event today in San Francisco. Nick Bilton in New York Times sums up the rumors about iPad 2, including trimmed-down form, front- and rear-facing cameras for video chat and photos/video, new photo software and improved speakers. Still, Leander Kahney at Cult of […]

There doesn’t seem much debate over what comes next at Apple’s (AAPL) press event today in San Francisco.

Nick Bilton in New York Times sums up the rumors about iPad 2, including trimmed-down form, front- and rear-facing cameras for video chat and photos/video, new photo software and improved speakers.

Still, Leander Kahney at Cult of Mac downplayed the iPad 2, quoting an anonymous Apple staffer: “For the iPad 2 don’t get your hopes up too high. That’s all I’m going to say. They’ve had a number of problems along the way, and the third-generation iPad is the one to make a song and a dance about.” The staffer said MobileMe will be upgraded with cloud storage.

Whatever.

But the real story in the end may be Steve Jobs, Apple CEO and co-founder, who is on a medical leave, and whether he opts to appear at the Apple event called for 10 a.m. Pacific Time at Yuerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Kara Swisher quotes sources in Boom Town in All Things D that Jobs is considering putting in an appearance. The headline over her piece said: “With Jobs Definitely Mulling Appearance at iPad Event, Let’s Hope the Focus Is on the Product.”

She said: “If he did appear, sources said, Jobs would make at least a brief appearance on stage along with other top company execs in showing off Apple’s latest version of its hugely popular tablet.”

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Sources suggest that Jobs, who has pancreatic cancer and underwent a liver transplant, may divert media attention from the iPad.

Jobs has been secretive about his condition. Why not? It is his business. Yet he has not disappeared. He showed up for dinner with President Obama and other Silicon Valley luminaries recently.

And photos have leaked of a gaunt Jobs, 56.

He’s a big boy. He’s a master of the media. He knows he’ll cause a buzz if he shows up.

Here’s an option: Maybe Jobs will make a remote appearance—demonstrating the iPad 2’s video chat capability?

Will a Jobs’ appearance—remote or in person—fuel speculation about his health and prognosis, shifting focus away the iPad 2 and its place in the market?

NBC Bay Area blog worries: “His appearance could take away from the luster of the actual star of the event: the iPad.”

In the end, this is a very human story about a larger-than-life character, one who has changed our world.

Will the media lay off Jobs if he shows up? Some will; others won’t. Jobs is a public figure. He has investors. He has a dedicated public following. He is a legend of our time. Why fuss about a gadget bloodlessly when a real man’s life and health are at stake?

The limelight is broad enough to shine on both Jobs and iPad 2 simultaneously. The fate of this high-profile exec and his company will be affected by what happens with Jobs’ personal health as well as sales of iPad 2.

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Let the show begin, and stay tuned to Appolicious today for expanded coverage about Apple’s announcement and a first look at the company’s new devices.

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Howard Wolinsky

Howard Wolinsky is a Chicago freelance writer specializing in health and tech topics. He covered those beats for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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