“Apple Inc. set off shock waves Tuesday by announcing Steve Jobs will not speak at what the company said would be its final appearance at the Macworld trade show. The news sent the company’s stock downward, and raised questions about whether Mr. Jobs had new health problems or some new products were not ready,” Justin Scheck and Nick Wingfield report for The Wall Street Journal.

“Speculation about the continued reign of Mr. Jobs — which has popped up from time to time since his 2004 treatment for cancer — underscore how closely Apple’s fashion-setting products are identified with its co-founder. There is no sign of any change in his status, but.. What if that situation does change? There is reason for optimism, based on the evolution of the team that develops Apple’s hardware, software and services, some people familiar with the company’s internal workings say. Some of them believe the group is now strong enough that, barring an exodus of top talent, the company could keep churning out innovative products without Mr. Jobs,” Scheck and Wingfield report.

“The hands-on work of Apple’s innovations depend more directly on subordinates such as Jonathan Ive, an Apple senior vice president who oversees the company’s industrial design team. His group is primarily associated with the physical look and feel of products, such as the unusually slender Macbook Air,” Scheck and Wingfield report.

“Scott Forstall, another senior vice president, leads the team responsible for the iPhone’s operating system and other software. In a sign of his growing importance at the company, Mr. Forstall was twice given the chance to speak at media and technical events earlier this year–and has shown some of the same showmanship that is Mr. Jobs’ trademark,” Scheck and Wingfield report.

There is much more in the full article, which discusses other crucial figures at Apple, here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jersey_Trader” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: May Steve Jobs live forever and reign as Apple CEO until the end of time!

Barring that, we bring you an email missive from Apple shareholder “Joe Architect” that rather accurately and semi-concisely portrays many of the sentiments of the majority of emails that we receive from Apple shareholders lately:

1. Steve Jobs is a creative genius and therefore extremely introverted and pedantic. You take a creative mind like that and combine it with being a far-flung granola hippie (which is usually the case) and it is beyond cliché that in his view he cannot be bothered by the uncreative mechanics of business and shareholder “issues.”

2. Many people (including myself) have acknowledged his genius by making significant investments in his company, with millions tied-up in the belief that his vision should/will result in positive returns – i.e. many people have made the effort to understand the actual facts of the company and are in a sense complimenting him by investing for the right reasons.

3. Jobs seems to ignore #2, staying within his protective cocoon and not acting (when truly necessary) on behalf of the folks who have placed their trust (and $’s) in him and who help to fund his business. If AAPL was a private company and he owned it all, then he would in fact be free to go for full Howard-Hughes-ness, but that is not the case. This is a public company and he needs to start acting accordingly.

4. Most other successful CEO’s actively participate in the marketplace, making cases where needed to avert unnecessary manipulation of their company. This may all seem like a trivial game if you have $10b already in the bank, however the ongoing intentional secrecy, part-answers and non-answers, and non-specificity of motives behind decisions are simply creating havoc for the ordinary investor. Everyone knows that dropping out of Macworld Expo is going to fuel rumors that he is sick again. Why can’t he just go on CNBC and state that he is healthy? Why does it have to be “off the record” when someone finally is able to ask the question directly? All of that behavior helps no one, but the dirtbag short-sellers and hedge-fund slime who are all manipulating AAPL to make up for their blatant mistakes of investing in ACTUAL GARBAGE like DELL and RIMM.

Your thoughts?