Steve Jobs has finished what he needs to do for Apple (AAPL) in 2007. The iPhone and iTV initiatives are launched. The new MacBooks are out. iPod sales will undoubtedly set a record in the calendar fourth quarter of 2006.
The back-dating options probe, expecially as it relates to grants to Mr. Jobs, is not going away. On Friday, the US Attorney in San Francisco opened a criminal investigation into the matter. The Apple board has exonerated Jobs, but it is hard to see how they could have done otherwise without a dead body and a video of the crime. He is arguably more important to the fate of his company than any other large-cap CEO in the world.
Which is precisely why Jobs should take a leave while the matter is resolved and remove any hint that his finger may be on the scales as the investigation proceeds.
Giving Jobs the benefit of every doubt, perhaps he knew nothing about the changes in options paperwork and all of the nastiness went on among people well below him in the chain of command. It should not take long to figure that out, and, in the meantime, he would do his shareholders a favor.
Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at email@example.com. He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.