Apple CEO Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. Apple’s co-founder and former CEO was one of a kind in the technology industry; a street smart, hubris-filled visionary who specialized in a unique mixture of position power and personal power to bring about a string of revolutionary new products.
What is Tim Cook? First, he’s not Steve Jobs. Second, he’s an engineer by training and an executive by experience, the man picked by Jobs as his successor, and the man credited with giving Apple a heart and guiding the company to great riches; both as a valuable company, and as a revenue and profit machine the likes of which do not exist elsewhere.
Historically, and Steve Jobs was behind most of them, Apple has been all about revolutionary innovation. Apple II, Mac, iMac, Apple Stores, iPod, iTunes Music Store, iPhone, iPad. Name another technology executive with a similar winning streak. Then again, name another executive who guided a company’s operations to produce the largest market cap, and the largest cash reserves, and the largest profits over a period of years. That’s Jobs for the former list, Cook for the latter list.
This is not to say that Jobs was perfect and did not wrong while running Apple and generating new and revolutionary products that excited the hearts and minds of a growing customer base. And this is not to say that Cooke didn’t have a hand in some of those hits and wasn’t responsible for making the operations work like trains that run on time.
Both Jobs and Cook needed one another during that long stretch of exciting product launches and transformations.
What appears to be missing at Apple these days is what Steve Jobs did better than Cook, better than design honcho Jonny Ive, and possibly better than any technology executive in the history of Silicon Valley.
Despite a few glaring missteps here and there, Jobs could see and feel the future because he had a rare mixture of experience and vision that combined with position power and personal power to push the envelope forward with breakthrough after breakthrough; revolutionary products mixed with off-the-shell components cobbled together in an insightful and unique way which brought delight to customers while critics howled.
The five year period after Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 was especially eventful and brought the iMac, Apple Stores, iPod, iTunes Music Store, and was quickly followed up by iPhone and iPad even while Jobs’ health deteriorated and died.
Compare that same period of creative birth to the five years since Jobs died in 2011. What hath Apple wrought?
To be fair, every Apple product has been improved incrementally during that period. It should be clear to Apple followers and critics that CEO Tim Cook does not have that vision thing, and one can argue that he now has difficulty getting the trains to run on time. Cook has the position power but not the personal power to drive Apple’s monster hit machine the way Jobs did.