Saving Face In China: The Biggest Difference Between Steve Jobs’ Apple And Tim Cook’s Apple

The past six months haven’t been good for Tim Cook’s Apple. Despite record revenue and profits, Apple’s stock has sagged under the weight of too much growth too fast to be sustainable.

Worse, Apple missed Wall Street’s crazy projections (while meeting the company’s own guidance), and the trendy Apple is beleaguered and Apple is doomed and Apple can’t innovate began to permeate the tech media mantra, and took up space alongside the clamor calling for CEO Tim Cook’s ouster.

Despite a lack of numerical quantification to justify Apple’s apparent fall from grace, the criticism had legs and spread like a virus to Apple’s second largest market. China. For two weeks China media criticized Apple as arrogant and worthy of investigation because the company treats Chinese customers differently than U.S. customers.

Here’s where Steve Jobs’ Apple and Tim Cook’s Apple differ. With the iPhone 4’s Antennagate problem, Apple confronted it head on with a stiff ‘All smartphones have a similar problem‘ posture. When Mapsgate threatened the launch of iPhone 5, Tim Cook fired the executive in charge and apologized to the world.

With Chinagate, Cook did the same thing and issued an apology and quickly changed how Apple handles service and warranty issues in China.

Therein lies the difference between Steve Jobs and Tim Cook.

Both are easily considered decisive executives unafraid to confront a problem to effect a good outcome. How they arrive at the outcome is different. When shareholders clamored for a stock dividend, how did Tim Cook respond? With a stock dividend. Can anyone imagine Steve Jobs giving money to shareholders in today’s competitive economy?

Maybe Apple under Tim Cook is a kinder, gentler Apple. Today it’s less Apple with an attitude than it is Apple as good citizen.