So what's to think about? Well, Jobs has always claimed he was happy running his animation firm, Pixar, the wizards behind "Toy Story." And Apple experts always assumed he preferred running the company from behind the scenes, which Jobs (who was exclusively profiled recently in TIME) has in effect been doing since his triumphal return last December. Many among the Macintosh faithful wanted Jobs to assume the mantle of supreme charismatic dictator for life, but up until now he has shunned the Napoleon role to work from the backroom on such "insanely great" things as August's Microsoft deal.
Neither Apple nor Pixar had any comment on the prospect, and the quest for a new CEO — led by top headhunters Heinrich & Struggles — officially continues. If Jobs does step up to the plate, their three-month search would seem a little quixotic. Which must leave Apple insiders wondering: is this the way Steve planned it all along?