Are you ready for Steve Jobs to return to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)? He'll be back in the saddle soon, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Citing sources "familiar with Apple," the Journal says that Jobs is on track to return from medical leave this month. A pancreatic-cancer survivor, Jobs left Apple in January after he was diagnosed with an unnamed condition that prevented him from absorbing food.

"He was one real sick guy,'' said a source quoted by the Journal. "Fundamentally he was starving to death over a nine-month period. He couldn't digest protein. [But] he took corrective action.''

Back in time
June is a critical month for Apple. Next week, the company holds its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, at which legions expect to see more of the 3.0 edition of the iPhone operating system and perhaps the new Mac OS 10.6, code-named Snow Leopard. Seeing a healthy Jobs on stage talking about these and other products could do wonders for investor confidence, especially now that competitive threats are looming.

Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) is shipping its highly touted Pre smartphone, as Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) unveil App Store clones. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), meanwhile, appears on the right track with Windows 7.

Hopefully, the desire to see Jobs return doesn't come across as a slight to Apple COO Tim Cook, because it shouldn't. Cook has been a terrific stand-in for Jobs over his past few months at the company's helm. He's bright, thoughtful, and completely engaged when it comes to the issues facing Apple. Witness his comments about netbooks:

When I look at what is being sold in the netbook space today, I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens. And just not a consumer experience, and not something that we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly.

How could any investor not love that? Cook's first priority isn't profit, but rather creating value. That's as it should be.

More importantly, this hiatus and Cook's performance should calm fears about a post-Jobs Apple. There's talent aplenty working at the Mac maker's Cupertino headquarters.

Still, I'm with the throng hoping that Jobs will be on stage next week. Welcome back, sir. It's been far too long.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Nokia at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is feeling a little more orange than Apple today. Hmmmm.