This might be obvious to most of us, but the WSJ feels it's fit to print: while Steve Jobs' reimbursed budget for his private jet has been fairly considerable over the past year or so -- $580,000 for a six-month period a year ago and $30,000 during a quarter period, the past few reports have seen the budget much, much lower. For the first three months of this year they didn't pay him at all, and for the previous six months before that they've only reimbursed him for $4,000.
What does this mean? Nothing, really -- while the WSJ points to it as evidence Jobs hasn't been traveling overseas to help bring the iPhone to China and carry out other big Apple deals, we've already known that Jobs wasn't involved much in the day-to-day business anyway; besides, it's hard to recuperate at home and fly around the world simultaneously. There are lots of other reasons for the budget to be down -- that $580,000 period would have been right around the manufacturing point of the iPhone 3G, and since most of the focus lately is on software, it's not like Jobs needs to be jetsetting off exotic plants to make sure production is on schedule.
And of course gas prices are back down quite a bit, and companies are under a little more scrutiny and pressure in this economy, so teleconferencing may be just as good as a plane ticket these days. Apple is still saying Jobs is expected back in June, and though these plane figures are interesting, the fact that Apple is still confident of his return says more about the company's future.