The health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs is again at the core of controversy. Oppenheimer & Co. downgraded Apple's stock from outperform to perform and said it would not recommend Apple stock as a long-term investment until Apple provides information regarding Jobs' health and plans for a successor.
Apple's stock opened at $91 Wednesday and dropped to the $89 range during the noon hour.
The move comes after Apple announced that Steve Jobs will not deliver the company's keynote address at the Macworld Conference in January. The company also announced it will be the last year for Macworld as Apple cuts back on trade shows.
The news sent Apple's stock down Tuesday and ignited concern from investors already worried about Jobs.
Jobs' health has been a concern since he was first diagnosed with a rare, but treatable, form of pancreatic cancer. Jobs has appeared at recent events telling audiences that he is healthy and very much alive. But Apple's decision to send Philip Schiller, vice president of Apple's worldwide product marketing, instead of Jobs to keynote the last Macworld raised concerns.
Not a Big Deal
The decision to no longer be a part of Macworld is not a huge surprise, say analysts, and so is the decision not to send Jobs.
"The day of the mega-conferences is over and, more importantly, Apple doesn't need a Macworld to get the news out and it does not have trouble attracting an audience," said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile devices at Jupitermedia.
Not sending Jobs also should not come as a shock because Apple stopped sending Jobs to Macworld on the East Coast a few years ago before completely pulling out of Macworld there.
"The last time they were in New York, they sent Greg Joswiak (vice president of iPhone and iPod product marketing) instead of Steve Jobs," said Gartenberg. "If you are Apple, you want to keep Steve Jobs in reserve until there is something to say."
A Smart Move
Analysts say it's a good thing that Apple is sending other top executives to keynote so the public and investors become more comfortable with them if they should one day replace Jobs.
"I think Steve's health is no one's business except for Steve unless it was something that is affecting the company," Gartenberg said. "The reality is Apple is much more than Steve."
Apple has said the same, telling the public that Jobs' health is a "private matter."
A succession plan is probably already in place, said Gartenberg, but it doesn't mean Apple needs to share it.
Investors disagree. Oppenheimer said the cancellation of Jobs' keynote at Macworld only underscores the need for information on his health and a succession plan, according to a Reuters report. If a plan is not in place, investors fear Apple will not be able to operate successfully.
At the end of the day, according to Gartenberg, Apple has more than just Steve Jobs. It has thousands of employees who are successfully providing products to consumers.