I’ve been an Apple watcher for for many, many years. What I see is a great rags-to-riches then back to rags and back to riches story; the second coming of Steve Jobs is one for the history books.
On one hand, it’s the same old Apple full of surprises, lapses in judgement, and a few high profile miscues here and there (Maps, Watch rollout, etc.). On the other hand, Apple under Tim Cook is a different Apple, one that may reflect Steve Jobs’ values, but not his lack of public humanity.
Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs, and Apple is in the process of altering course, breaking somewhat from the past, but remaining, well, Apple-like. Here are some recent examples.
Apple keynote presentations of the past were textbook affairs with laser focus on a product’s positioning and value proposition. Jobs was a master at carving through the clutter to present the essence of a new product. CEO Time Cook looked more comfortable than ever when presenting before Apple developers at WWDC 2015’s launch of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, but then along came Music.
So much for laser focus. The Music show ‘n tell was a jumbled mishmash of clumsiness on the part of everyone, and a bit embarrassing for everyone to watch. The essence of Music is a streaming subscription service with a free three month trial period.
Days later singer songwriter Taylor Swift pulled her hot selling album ‘1989’ from the trial period and wrote a tough-love letter to Apple for not paying artists during the free trial. Hours later Apple turned on a dime and did the right thing.
The new Apple under Tim Cook is more public than it ever was under Steve Jobs. Cook enters into social issues that Jobs avoided. Cook was behind the move to give money to shareholders and buy back stock. On such things Jobs was notoriously tight-fisted. From WWDC 2015 we learn that iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan are more about security, stability, performance, and interoperability, and less about the gee whiz sizzle that Jobs so loved.
Apple is at the top of GreenPeace’s good guy list and a leader in the going green movement (though I wonder how green a company can be when it sells hundreds of millions of electronic devices a year). If only Richard Nixon could go to China, then Tim Cook knows which side of the Pacific his bread is buttered, making regular trips to the land of 1.5-billion potential customers.
While Steve Jobs vowed to crush Google and Samsung because of their obvious theft of Apple’s intellectual property, not to mention the backstabbing at the hands of
Brutus then Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Tim Cook seems more at ease with negotiation and pragmatism, while extending Apple’s independence in component manufacturing.
Over the past few years we’ve read a growing chorus and many examples of ‘this would not have happened under Steve Jobs‘ but that’s idle speculation. Technology companies driven by their original founders change over time, just as Jobs changed while living like Moses in the wilderness (NeXT and Pixar) for years, before coming out of obscurity to rise to the top of the technology industry.
Things change. Apple is changing; in many ways still Apple, but with a different, more flexible, more friendly, considerate Apple; a company with ears that listen, yet with a willingness to adjust quickly and make needed changes on the road to becoming a mature company. And why not? After all, Apple is middle-aged now.