Courtesy of Time.com, it's the incredibly shrinking Steve Jobs!
An tech blog has accused Time magazine's Web site of manipulating the Apple CEO's image to make him appear even more gaunt — but Time says it was an innocent mistake.
Apple's surprise announcement late Tuesday that the company's top dog would not be giving his traditional keynote address at the annual Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco next month had business and tech reporters scrambling to get stories online.
Time's Josh Quittner had a piece up within hours, but as the MacDailyNews blog found the next morning, the accompanying photo of Jobs, taken at his last public appearance in October, appeared stretched vertically so that the slim chief executive looked even slimmer.
"Despicable," thundered MacDailyNews. "TIME Magazine should be ashamed (if that's even possible for them anymore). ... TIME Magazine should publicly apologize to Apple Inc., Steve Jobs — and Apple shareholders, for that matter."
MacDailyNews posted the original Getty Images photo alongside the Time.com one. Time's was clearly taller, but not wider, and Jobs appeared especially thin.
Responding to a request by FoxNews.com, a Time spokeswoman forwarded an official statement dismissing it as a coding error.
"Unfortunately the height and width ratios were temporarily pre-set incorrectly on TIME.com," read the statement. "The error was corrected at 9:30 am ET Wednesday, after having been posted at 7:30 pm the previous night. We regret any confusion caused by the error."
MacDailyNews' outraged posting seemed to think that was deliberate.
"The original photo has had its size vertically increased via code in TIME's website," MacDailyNews wrote. "TIME's code specifies a width of 307 pixels and a height of 200 pixels, but in order to maintain the proper aspect ratio — in other words present the photo of Jobs as he actually looked at the time it was taken — the dimensions should be 307x175 pixels."
But as anyone who's worked with photos on a Web page knows, that sounds like a pretty elementary mistake, one in which an oddly proportioned photo ends up distorting itself to fit into a prearranged size.
Were the manipulation deliberate, it probably would have been done to the image itself in Photoshop. Changing the embedding page's source code would be tedious and inefficient by comparison.
MacDailyNews also cited the infamous Time magazine O.J. Simpson cover from June 1994, when the football great's image was darkened to reflect the sudden dimming of his once-bright public image following the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. Critics of the Simpson cover charged Time with stoking racial antagonism.
Rumors about Jobs' health have been swirling since July, when the 53-year-old cancer survivor startled Apple fans, analysts and shareholders with his strikingly gaunt appearance during a speech.
Jobs has appeared in public twice since then, energetic and upbeat but no less thin, and the news Tuesday that he wouldn't be at Macworld in January led many to suspect he'd taken a turn for the worse.
More than any other technology chief executive, Jobs personifies his company, which he co-founded in 1975 and led to spectacular initial success with the Apple II and Macintosh computers.
After he was forced out in a boardroom coup in 1985, Apple's fortunes slowly sank until Jobs parachuted back in at the end of 1997 — and led the company to even greater heights with the iMac, iPod and iPhone.