For obvious reasons, today’s announcement from Steve Jobs that he’s taking a medical leave of absence until the end of June is, to say the least, worrisome. For one thing, today’s news is quite a sudden jerk from his announcement just one week ago that he was undergoing treatment for a “hormone imbalance” and would remain on the job while on the mend. Another part is the cryptic nature of this statement from his company-wide email today:

In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

Unlike many others in the technical (and financial) press, I “demand” to know nothing further. If this is all Jobs chooses to share regarding the specific details of what ails him, that is up to him. But it’s very difficult to read this any other way than that where Jobs says “more complex”, he means “worse”.

The end of June is nearly six months away, and considering last week’s statement that Jobs was “getting to spend the holiday season with [his] family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote”, it seems possible that he’s already been on a reduced schedule since last month. Six months is a long time, especially for someone like Jobs who clearly loves his job. As a point of reference, after Jobs had surgery for pancreatic cancer at the end of July 2004, he was back to work part-time a little over one month later, and full-time another month after that.

So even if his health issues are not life-threatening, they are obviously quite serious. There’s not a word in today’s announcement that can be interpreted as good news, other than his closing:

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.

Right back at you, Steve.