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Is Steve Already Back To Work?

Steve Jobs
AP
Steve Jobs

It struck me, as it did so many of you, in reading the Applepress release about iPhone 3GS sales this past weekend, a notable quote from Steve Jobs.

A simple sentence, espousing nothing more different than anything Jobs has said before: iPhone is great, App Store is great, Apple is great.

But it is now the quote heard 'round the world, and a not-so-subtle announcement that Jobs is back to work. It's a little Apple schadenfreude: all of us are at first fixated on the liver transplant story, and then our attention quickly turns to the stunning iPhone 3GS sales numbers. And all the while, buried in the release, a simple but oh-so-telling quote from Jobs.

Why so telling? Because it's the first appearance by Jobs in an Apple press release since he took medical leave in January. And that makes this significant. Apple has said all along that Jobs would be back to the company toward the end of June. It's a little sad that Apple sticking to its message and the message was actually accurate is deemed "newsworthy," but such is the climate we're in when it comes to this company.

Apple could always have been more upfront, the company could have always offered "the whole truth" instead of just parts of it. And those issues are the legacy of the entire Jobs' affair.

Some key questions do remain, and these are the fiduciary ones that Apple will in fact be compelled to answer. Who's in charge? Is Jobs working full time? Part time? Has Tim Cook added to his responsibilities? Is he joining the board? Those are hardly the "private matters" health maladies might be.

But those are questions and answers for another day. Apple's appeal has always been its flare for design, an understated elegance that captures the imagination and stamps it out in a beautifully crafted single slab of aluminum. There's a minimalist appeal of the Mac Mini, AppleTV, even the company's Bluetooth earpiece.

Likewise, there's a certain minimalist appeal to announcing Jobs' return to the job he left not with neon, balloons, fireworks and a splashy press event; but as a single quote in a press release about something arguably even more important to Apple than Jobs himself: its products.

Apple, in its inimitable and minimalist way, isn't commenting.

Update: I have just confirmed that Steve Jobs reported to work today at Apple's Cupertino headquarters. Apple employees tell me Jobs is on campus. Apple officials have still not returned calls seeking comment about Jobs status and whether he is at the office today.

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