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Steve Jobs Back in Charge; Should We Be Surprised?

Seems the substitute teacher is out, and the regular teacher is back in the classroom, at least if you believe the Wall Street Journal in a fascinating glimpse into how Infinite Loop is operating nowadays.

The Journal, citing no sources by name, says since Jobs' return to the office after recovering from liver transplant surgery, he has been micro-managing every detail connected to the development of the long-rumored Mac tablet computer. None of this should be all that surprising. There seems to be a fairly dramatic reset going on inside Apple's hallowed halls with workers once again having to answer to the man himself, rather than the surrogate Tim Cook who filled in for Jobs during his absence. Interesting that this story is breaking now; that in some way, a very calculated Apple Inc. seems to be sending the not-so-tacit message that despite a deep bench of executives who enjoyed their fair share of the limelight while Jobs was recovering, are now once again fading to the background. Tim Cook, widely lauded, is today the guy who fostered a more relaxed culture at the company. Jobs is in charge.

Is that all that that surprising? Not really. The guy was probably chomping at the bit to get back into the trenches—and that's if he really ever left. My sense is that short of the time he was actually under anesthetic, Jobs played a very active, day-to-day role in all things Apple whether he was physically at the office or not. Even when he wasn't there he was really there, popping in on campus in unannounced visits, or quietly meeting with members of his team.

Also, if there was any question as to how much control Jobs exerts now that he's back, consider that the Wall Street Journal contacted him for comment on all of this, and he very uncharacteristically responded in an email that "much of your information is incorrect." Interesting that he'd even bother to take the time.

Now, about that big project dominating his time, the so-called tablet. The rumors surrounding this project are almost beginning to rival the Jesus phone. This has been going on for months; for years, if you consider that Apple took out a tablet-oriented patent way back in 2000. I'm hearing the same rumors, talking to some of the same people. I don't doubt that all of this is true; but I'm hearing that the device isn't quite ready for prime time, I'm told not to be surprised if this device doesn't make it out of the workshop before year end, and that Jobs is driving every single part of this device's research and development. Will his team step up? Will they have it ready shortly? Or eventually? So much misinformation being spread about this, it's hard to pin down what's real and what isn't. I'm not sure there's a consensus on the Apple campus about not just whether the device is coming, but even if it is?

And despite all that smoke, and all those mirrors, Piper Jaffray says this thing could generate over $1 billion in revenue for Apple next year. No specs, no release date, no design, no price and it's already $1 billion! Such is the power of Apple's mystique; such is the power of the Steve Jobs track record and legacy. I think the tablet is still a 50/50 proposition. But so is the rain. It either will or won't. We'll see.

(Separately, we're starting something new today, with this post in fact! Comments! Yeah! So excited. Keep it clean, keep it constructive. I look forward to connecting with you, communicating with you, arguing and agreeing. Such is the power of the blog; and hopefully it will be the power of this one.)

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