By all accounts, Steve Jobs personally drove the rapid creation and wildly successful hyping of the just-unveiled iPad. So you'd think his handlers would be confident in his healthy image, no matter how slowly he walks in public. (Update: Video.)
Yet we're told that isn't the case. And the fearful words of Jobs' entourage are only driving more chatter about that longtime obsession of Apple watchers: the CEO's health.
After yesterday's keynote, when Jobs left Apple's demonstration event for journalists, he left right out of the front door of the building where the press demos were being held. Somewhere around 50 reporters and photographers were mulling around, and some started to snap pictures and video.
But Jobs' entourage tried to put a stop to it, according to one of the people there at the time. Said the witness:
He was doing the 70-year-old man shuffle, surrounded by an entourage. Not the walk of a healthy man. And his entourage was telling people not to take pictures...
It was extremely surreal.... It was a labored shuffle. Reminded me of my older grandpa, not a spry guy in his 50s.
Our tipster added that Jobs seemed to be walking at maybe half the speed of a normal walk, and "looked frail."
Now, Jobs just pushed through what he hopes will become a breakthrough product, a big success in a category that's produced basically nothing but failure. He's known for pushing his staff — and himself — hard to meet deadlines in the months leading up to product announcements. And, though he was seated part of the time there, on stage Jobs gave his usual intense performance.
So it's no surprise he might be exhausted at the end of all that.
But trying to restrict pictures only pushes people away from innocuous explanations and toward old concerns about his health. It's a touchy subject, one Apple hushed up for a long time and even made false statements about. But pancreatic cancer survivor Jobs nearly "starved to death," a source told the Wall Street Journal, before receiving a liver transplant last spring.
So we're curious what people saw. If you were there, email us and tell us how Jobs looked to you. Or better yet, if you spot video from Jobs' building exit — a cameraman appeared to be filming at one point, we understand — send us a pointer.
In the meantime, we've put some video of Jobs walking on stage on Wednesday above, along with some older footage from events in 2005 and 2003. Jobs clearly hasn't piled the weight back on yet (compare to 2008 and 2009 pictures here), but his deliberately slow on-stage gait was only a bit faster in 2005. And it's hard to guess why Jobs was slower on entrance (we've muted the sound) than in 2003 — but easy to speculate wildly, which is why we hope Apple pivots to a policy of releasing more information about Jobs' health, rather than trying to restrict people from gathering scant data of their own.
UPDATE: Here's a YouTube of part of Jobs' departure: