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Steve Jobs Walks Into the Trap

Steve Jobs
AP
Steve Jobs

What was Steve thinking? I don't pretend to understand the pressures he's under, both physically and professionally, but calling New York Times columnist Joe Nocera with an "off the record" health update was a big mistake, completely unnecessary, and serves only to fan the flames.

Make no mistake: I'm happy he did if only to confirm what many of us have speculated about: that he's dealing with some non-life-threatening health issues that don't seem material to Apple. And make no mistake, I sure wish he would've called me. I do.

I just find it so weird that he reached out to anyone, and in such a strange way. Nocera reports that Jobs started the conversation by saying, "This is Steve Jobs. You think I'm an arrogant (expletive) who thinks he's above the law, and I think you're a slime bucket who gets most of the facts wrong."

Which makes you kinda wonder why Jobs would choose a "slime bucket" to get his story out. The trouble for Apple, for Jobs, is consistency. You either comment. Or you don't. You either talk on the record. Or you don't. And you do so consistently. The fact is, Jobs and Apple don't need to comment simply because Jobs' health, such that it is today, is not failing, he's not dying, and therefore whatever is ailing him is not "material" to the company. That's the threshold. Now, if Apple wanted to go "above and beyond" to set the record straight, that's the company's prerogative. And Steve's. But neither chose to go there. Legally, that's fine. And some will argue that's ethically fine, too.

And that brings us to the phone call by Jobs to Nocera, and why Jobs walked into the trap. The pressure swirling around Apple on this topic is huge. The temptation to give into it must be huge as well. Jobs should have known better. Either come clean, on the record, and set a new precedent, or stand pat. Hold your ground. Stick to principle. He chose not to do that. Instead, he rails on Nocera, takes the conversation off the record (which is bizarre -- I mean, what's the point?) leaving Nocera to conclude nebulously that whatever has been troubling Jobs is a "good deal more than a common bug," which is very, very troubling for Apple since that's the tune the company was singing when all this began to break; but not "life-threatening and he doesn't have a recurrence of cancer," which is very, very good for Jobs, his family, and Apple's employees and shareholders.

But as Nocera points out, Jobs had finally provided to Nocera -- a mere reporter with no personal stake in Apple -- the "very information he was refusing to share with the shareholders who have entrusted him with their money," and a simple act that could have put all this to rest weeks ago. I know why Jobs chose not to disclose this information earlier. I can't fathom why he chose to address it, in this way, now. He played right into the coverage; right into the controversy. And right into the trap. Had he just stuck to his guns, this would have evaporated. Eventually. And he could've stood on principle.

I'm happy he's ok. Yet instead of putting an end to this issue, I wonder if there's now more questions than answers. I look forward to your responses, but I don't plan to return to this topic unless there's concrete, material information that compels me to.

So strange. So very strange.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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