While Steve Jobs Is Away, Recruiters Will Pay

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is the ultimate telecommuter, working from home on a new, lightweight "netbook" while he's ostensibly on medical leave from Apple. Investors are calming down. So what are employees worried about?

The Wall Street Journal reports that Jobs is still in charge, with little-known COO Tim Cook running things day to day. Wall Street analysts expect a minor shift after Jobs returns to work in July — Jobs becoming chairman, say, with Cook as CEO.

Yet there seem to be some fears on Apple's campus — perhaps of Apple's long-term prospects without Jobs at the helm, or perhaps of something else happening inside the computer and smartphone maker. The Journal reports that Apple's rivals are finding it easier to poach people from Apple:

Job recruiters say they aren't seeing significant employee turnover at Apple. But executives at several Silicon Valley companies say they are getting more interest than before from Apple managers, particularly those in the mid-to-upper levels. Most recently, Greg Dudey, one of the lead engineers for Apple TV software, left the company to work for Dell Inc. Mr. Jobs's health is not necessarily the driver of such job moves, according to these people.

Palm, which is rolling out the Pre, a smartphone which hopes to compete with Apple's iPhone, has hired away several people. We also hear that an engineer working on a secret project to build an Apple-branded videogame console is being wooed by other Valley companies. And the company's efforts to improve its online services has been stymied, we hear, by difficulties in hiring the right talent.

Jobs, despite his reputation as a tyrant, has always been an excellent recruiter. Most recently he pried longtime IBM executive Mark Papermaster away from Big Blue, despite a legal fight. Will the industry's best brains want to work for an Apple without Jobs at the helm?

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