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Apple's Cult Factor Emerges as Drawback

CUPERTINO, Calif. (TheStreet) -- I know I'm going to be yelled at for saying this, but isn't it about time we stopped the deification of Steve Jobs?

When word broke on Monday that the Apple (AAPL) chief executive was taking a medical leave of absence, one could practically hear the collective gasps. When trading opened Tuesday, the stock slid in ferocious early trading during the morning. Articles such as this one framed the collective wisdom: "Without Steve Jobs, Questions Surround Apple."

The problem is that with or without Steve Jobs, questions will always surround Apple and, for that matter, questions will always surround every public company in existence.

Recap: Apple Earnings Blog >>

The difference, and the reason for the near-hysteria and the mammoth market reaction, is that Apple isn't just any old stock, it is the quintessential cult stock. One of the reasons that Apple is a cult stock is what we're seeing today: an unhealthy obsession with its founder and CEO.

Now don't get me wrong. I share the high regard that everybody seems to have for Steve Jobs, just as I understand why the company's products seem to engender such fanatical, cult-like loyalty. He is certainly one of the truly outstanding figures of our time, and his products are said to be pretty darn good too. One fellow I know, a cynical veteran investigative reporter, waxed rhapsodic when the subject of his Apple came up a while back. He told me that once he switched to an Apple computer, it was like a religious experience. "You never look back," he told me some time ago. Sort of like the birth of one's first child, or a seminal event like Sept. 11.

At bottom, what is happening here? Nothing more than the fact that the flesh is human, and Jobs is human. He is unwell, and the state of his health has been subject to the kind of speculation that ordinarily follows a head of state, not a CEO. Although Jobs has downplayed the extent of his cancer in the past, it speaks for itself that he is taking a medical leave a year and a half after his liver transplant was deemed to be a success.

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