Since permanently taking over the CEO title for Apple in 2011, Tim Cook has begun to shape the company into a slightly different form. From a major executive shake-up, the promised increased secrecy, and a noticeably different format for the company’s famous keynotes, Cook has been making Apple his own – apparently following Steve Jobs’ request to never ask what he would do.
We’ve got more after the break!
As we saw at this year’s WWDC keynote, headlined by Cook, Apple is taking a different approach in how it delivers news to the world. Unlike with Jobs, Cook’s presence on the stage is largely supportive – delegating responsibility for feature announcements to the relevant department heads. Senior Vice Presidents took up most of the stage time at WWDC’s keynote this time around. Where Jobs would gush over his new iPad, calling it “a truly magical and revolutionary product,” Cook now lets the people responsible for designing and making these products take the spotlight. At WWDC this year, Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi really shined and out-shined Cook – which was likely by design. This style allows for a deeper connection with those responsible for the products we love. While Apple may have lots its original visionary when Jobs died, Cook is showing us that Apple is actually full of visionaries that are still creating magic. Apple keynotes are now a showcase of the company as a whole, rather than a single person.
Cook famously promised to double down on secrecy, and we think this has largely worked. As we reported prior to WWDC, leaks were sparse prior to Apple’s iOS 7 announcement. 9to5Mac did get a peek at the new mobile OS prior to the announcement, but only less than 12 hours before everyone else saw it, too. We go into Apple’s secrecy in more detail here.
The death of Steven Jobs was said to be the death knell for innovation at Apple. WWDC 2013 showed this is not true. Radical redesigns to iOS and big changes to Mac OS X proved Apple’s still got it where it counts when it comes to software design. Jony Ive seems to be fitting in well with UI design – a recent promotion that puts him in control of all aspects of design at Apple. The spaceship-like design of the new Mac Pro proves that Apple still knows design. It was widely known that Jobs was involved in the design of Apple’s products, but this was in support of Ive, Apple’s design genius. Ive changed desktop computing and what we expect it to look like with the new futuristic look of a previously big and bulky desktop. It’s exciting to think where the next major iteration of the iPhone will take phone design.
Apple has been a traditionally stubborn company, mostly taking cues from Jobs’ attitude: Apple is always right. Unless it’s not, in which case you are wrong. Remember “antennagate”? iPhone 4 users complained of huge drops in signal strength when holding the phone in a way that covered the outside antenna divider in the bottom left-hand corner. It was a real problem that required holding your phone differently or putting a case on it. Apple acknowledge this, but ridiculously blamed users for holding it wrong. They even created videos showing competing phones experiencing the same problems Wow. The issue with the iPhone 4 was that this “signal attenuation” happened when holding the phone naturally.
iPhone 4 owners were initially given a free case to alleviate the issue, or later a check for $15 as settlement for a class-action lawsuit. It was kind of out of control, but Apple did nothing to fix the design until the iPhone 4S came out – quietly adjust external antenna placement and correcting the problem. A recall or design change of the iPhone 4 would have admitted that Apple was wrong, which I think Jobs honestly did not believe. Jobs kind-of apologized for antennagate, admitting instead that he was not saying Apple was at fault (but accepting no fault at the same time) and that they essentially overestimated the intelligence of their customers.
Since Cook took over, Apple has become far more charitable than it was or would have been under Jobs. Though Jobs did apparently personally give to charity privately, Apple never publicly made large donations. Support for Product (RED) was big, with dramatic red designs available on iPods and cases for iPad, iPhone, and iPod, Apple avoided direct charitable donations.
Cook has done just the opposite, giving $100 million to charity in 2012 and recently auctioning off coffee time with him at the Apple campus. Bidding ended at an impressive $610,000. This wouldn’t have happened under Jobs.
Jobs was not too shy to fire people, but we saw some major shake-ups recently under Cook. Cook cut Apple’s retail chief after he gave retail employees a raise then promptly slashed their work hours. The retail changes that Bowett made were immediately rolled back, to the excitement of Geniuses everywhere. Apple also famously let Scott Forstall go for his lack of collaboration. The decision was also supposedly influenced by his decision to not sign an apology letter that Cook released in light of the Maps debacle. Forstall’s departure, thankfully, led to a dramatic redesign as Ive took over iOS design. Forstall was the final holdout for skeuomorphism, along with Jobs previously.
What’s the same?
Apple is a different company now than it was under Jobs, but it’s also much the same. Apple products continue to wow customers and outsell and outperform the competition. Customer service is still a major strongpoint, and Apple is continuing to prove that they can still innovate. Cook is more willing to take responsibility for Apple’s faults and promise to fix them. The secrecy Tim Cook promised is definitely in full effect, but will soon be tested as the release of the iPhone 5S becomes imminent. We’ll have a major test of Cook’s secrecy next year when details about the iPhone 6 will likely begin to emerge.
Cook has proved that he’s willing to let people go if they fail to take part in this “new Apple”, but his team now seems strong. Apple is changing and growing, but it’s still the same Apple that we have always loved. These next few years, free of influence from Steve, will be vital for Apple. Investors, reporters, and customers continue to expect radically magical and revolutionary products, and that is the true test for Cook’s Apple. Can Cook’s Apple be as groundbreaking and cool as Steve’s Apple?