For Apple, the glorious thing about being a publicly traded company is that profound investor confidence in the company's ongoing ability to deliver marvelous new products with fantastic revenue streams has pushed the company's market cap to about $320 billion as of Saturday morning.
At the same time, the not-so-glorious counterpoint for Apple is that investors and other market influencers expect that in return for the capital they're plowing into the company's stock, Apple will be as forthcoming as necessary about its business and key issues affecting its prospects.
And so it is that Apple is facing mounting pressure to be more transparent about its succession-planning policies in light of Steve Jobs's current medical leave of absence, his second in the last two years.
While no one—at least yet—is claiming that Apple has to or even should disclose more details regarding the nature of Jobs's current illness, Apple will certainly be expected to describe in greater detail how it is at least considering how it would operate if Jobs has to be replaced as CEO.
It's a highly sensitive issue, isn't it: on the one hand, Jobs is very likely in a battle for survival, and has asked that his family's privacy be respected during this most difficult time.
On the other hand, he has been the primary animating force behind Apple's incredible resurgence over the past decade and its ascendancy to a spot among the best-known and most-revered brands in the world.
And therefore he's been an incredibly important factor—without question, the most important factor—behind Apple's remarkable success and its heady market cap of $320 billion.
So investors clearly have a right to some answers: what is Apple's plan if Jobs can't return as CEO? Who will run the company? How will Apple fill the void that this almost-mythical icon would leave?
A Wall Street Journal news article yesterday cited comments from proxy advisory firm about the complex situation involving Apple and Jobs: