“When I woke up the next day, it was all over the Web,” Mr. Söderlund said. “Almost every Mac Web site had picked it up, and the biggest newspaper in town wrote about it. We had more visits to my Web site in 12 hours than we had all year. It was crazy.”
Apple is a notoriously secretive company. Its few public statements are dissected by its knowledgeable fans with the vigor of forensic experts. But Mr. Jobs sometimes takes a more intimate approach to information-sharing — and when his e-mail messages pop up on the computer screens of random fans and critics, they can inspire ecstasy and awe.
“Oh my God, I am never cleaning my in-box again,” Devir Kahan says in an eight-minute YouTube video he made last month after hearing from Mr. Jobs.
Mr. Kahan, who is 14 and lives in the New York City area, had complained about a problem with an Apple keyboard. “Software fix coming soon,” Mr. Jobs’s reply said. “Sorry for the bug.”
While Mr. Jobs was known to occasionally answer e-mail messages sent to his widely published address before he went on medical leave last year, he now appears to have not only resumed the practice, but picked up the pace. Apple blogs are counting approximately a dozen such messages in the last few weeks — and those are only the ones that were publicly shared.
Mr. Jobs did not respond to an inquiry about his e-mail habits that was sent to him directly, and Apple would not comment. But every indication is that the messages are being sent by Mr. Jobs himself, and they are resonating throughout the universe of Apple fans to an almost absurd degree.
John Devor printed out his personal Jobsian missive and taped it to the wall of his dorm room at the University of Virginia. The 23-year-old entrepreneur had written Mr. Jobs to praise him, but also to complain about how Apple’s lawyers were demanding that he change the name of his music-copying program, iPodRip.
“Change your apps name. Not that big of a deal. Steve,” Mr. Jobs wrote.
“I was stunned. I think I was shaking,” Mr. Devor recalled of the moment the e-mail message appeared in his in-box. A few weeks later, he reflected more calmly about the reply. “I kind of pictured him writing that while he was going to the bathroom or something,” Mr. Devor said.
Andrea Nepori, a 25-year-old blogger in Italy, got one of the many messages sent this week, after asking Apple’s leader whether the iPad would provide access to free online e-books.
“Yep,” Mr. Jobs replied.
Mr. Nepori said he immediately regretted that he had not asked a better question. But he was impressed by the response. “I don’t know that I’ve heard of Steve Ballmer or any other C.E.O.’s answering e-mails,” he said. “Maybe nobody writes to them.”