Via John Gruber's Daring Fireball, I see that Steve has finally (and sensibly) released a statement on the matter.
January 5, 2009
Letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Dear Apple Community,
For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.
Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.
I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.
As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.
Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause—a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.
The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.
I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.
So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.
As John Gruber says...
Good news and well-said. The closing paragraph is pure Jobs.
Although having to issue this statement will have pained the obsessively private Jobs, it was definitely the right thing to do; of course, the speculation will continue (and is likely to do so until he's looking fit and well again) but at least no one can say that Steve hasn't tried to allay the fears.
In the meantime, I'd say that Apple stock was a pretty good buy at $94.20 (they hit $200 at the end of December 2007).
UPDATE: the Board of Directors has echoed Jobs' statement.
It is widely recognized both inside and outside of Apple that Steve Jobs is one of the most talented and effective CEOs in the world.
As we have said before, if there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons cannot continue to fulfill his duties as Apple’s CEO, you will know it.
Apple is very lucky to have Steve as its leader and CEO, and he deserves our complete and unwavering support during his recuperation. He most certainly has that from Apple and its Board.
John Gruber helpfully provides a translation...
Translation: If Jobs were terminally ill, or otherwise unable to do his job, Apple’s board would make it known.
DISCLAIMER: I own an insignificant amount of Apple shares.