How Tim Cook is changing Apple in the post-Steve Jobs era

“In February of this year, a group of investors visited Apple as part of a ‘bus tour’ led by a research analyst for Citibank. The session started with a 45-minute presentation by Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer,” Adam Lashinsky writes for Fortune. “What shocked the Apple (AAPL) investors that day was that CEO Tim Cook popped into the room about 20 minutes into Oppenheimer’s talk, quietly sat down in the back of the room, and did something unusual for a CEO of Apple: He listened. He didn’t check his e-mail once. He didn’t interrupt.”

“After the CFO finished, Cook, at that point chief executive of Apple for all of five months, stood to offer his remarks. He strode confidently to the front of the room and held court in the no-nonsense style that has become his trademark. ‘He was in complete control and knew exactly who he was and where he wanted to go,’ says one of the investors. ‘He answered every question head-on and didn’t skirt any issue,'” Lashinsky writes. “Here’s what’s most remarkable about Cook’s appearance that day last winter: Steve Jobs wouldn’t have bothered.”

Fortune cover: How Tim Cook is changing Apple

Lashinsky writes, “The legendary company co-founder, who stepped down as Apple’s CEO last Aug. 24, six weeks before his death, rarely deigned to meet with investors… It’s a subtle but significant change — investors now have the CEO’s ear for the first time in years — and it’s one of many Cook has instituted at Apple as he approaches his one-year mark at the helm. Taken together — his rapport with Wall Street as well as government officials, his decision to grant a dividend to shareholders, the creation of a program to match employee gifts to charity — Tim Cook’s stewardship of Apple is beginning to come into focus. A 14-year veteran of the company, Cook is maintaining, by words and actions, most of Apple’s unique corporate culture. But shifts of behavior and tone are absolutely apparent; some of them affect the core of Apple’s critical product-development process. In general, Apple has become slightly more open and considerably more corporate. In some cases Cook is taking action that Apple sorely needed and employees badly wanted. It’s almost as if he is working his way through a to-do list of long-overdue repairs the previous occupant (Jobs) refused to address for no reason other than obstinacy.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Jax44” and “Arline M.” for the heads up.]

20 Comments

  1. When a company is doing as well as Apple, I don’t think investors should play a role in what they do. They can only bring bad influence and prompt poor decisions in an effort to make a quick buck and turn Apple into a “normal” company. When has any company ever said “Thank god we listened to our investors! They had such great ideas and really took us to the next level.” Never!

  2. Listening and open dialogue stuff is nice, as long as Apple remains independent of WS, else they follow the pc box manufacturer route of ROI, EBIT and other drivel that short term fattens investor wallets, but long term rots the company from the inside (see Dell, MD, HP, etc).

    I believe Cook is doing a great job, especially to follow a legend that founded, dismissed, returned, resurrected and passed at the helm of the company….how do you top that? You don’t. You can’t. You be your own person that “fixes” oversights, make some amends, builds some bridges and repairs others, while letting Apple do what Apple does best – innovate.

    Thanks Tim.

  3. [i]meaning more MBAs, more process, and more structure[/i]

    It might take a long time, but MBAs bringing more processes and standard business structure will be the death knell at some point.

    I have never seen a company improve with a flood of MBAs.

    1. A quote from the article:

      One veteran executive was “blown away” by what he had seen, says someone this executive spoke to afterward. Reports another person with access to top-level Apple executives: “People came away totally comfortable with where the company is headed.”

  4. The desperation with which Apple is pushing Siri advertisements is a sure sign that the ideas locker in Cupertino has run dry and that the marketing guy has taken over the company with concomitant result that mediocrity will become the new norm, pushing out unchanging product lines with minor tweaks here & there to differentiate it from last year’s model. 

    The bet-it-all mentality of seismic changes that brought in the iPhone, iPad & iPod will be a thing of the past because no matter how you slice & dice it, Tim Cook is not and never will be a tech visionary on the scale of Steve Jobs.

    1. Well, I suppose that could be the case.

      However, I’m sure the kindest comment reply to your input you may see will be mine: only time will tell.

      Me? I’m optimistic. Yet if Cook’s duration at the helm is short-lived, a la Spindler or Amelio, you could be correct. That could be a sign the MBAs are winning.

      Still – go Tim. Long Apple.

    2. Dude are you dense or are you just pushing FUD (or both?)

      Even if you believe steve drove the innovation at Apple, the design pipeline at Apple is at least 5 years long. So even given (the very dubious) construct that steve single-handly drove all innovation (which, given what we know about the bench, is nonsense) it would still be 5 years before the “ideas locker runs dry”

      Add to that; Cook isn’t marketing guy he is operations. Are you so clueless that you don’t understand the difference?

      1. If what you say is true, that Steve Jobs did not single-handedly drive innovation at Apple, then the reverse must be true, that innovation would have occurred on its own due to the depth of bench at Apple and Steve was only a catalyst.

        If that statement is true, then Apple alumni like Jon Rubenstein, Andy Rubin, Ron Johnson, et al would have been able to replicate their success, given the right laboratory conditions, at other companies and start-ups. Yet, it has been shown, time and time again, that without the brilliance of Steve Jobs driving innovation forward at Apple, the results are dire. HP Palm fell flat on its face, JC Penney is in dire straits and looking direr by the minute, and Android is a crooked mess.

        And so the question is why only at Apple were these individuals, brilliant minds on their own, able to thrive?

        1. The reason others failed is because the environment that Steve created, ‘the culture of Apple,’ id you will is missing in those other places. It surely took Steve awhile to create the culture of creativity at Apple. Others that took over had to fight the corporate culture that existed at them. 🙂

          1. The culture of Apple, if that is what it is, existed at Apple before the return of Steve Jobs in 1997. But Apple, before the second coming of Steve, was run to the ground, having the same management resources and people that Steve had at his disposal.

            How did Steve save Apple in 1998 with the iMac? How did he save Apple and then reinvent Apple for what it is today if not for his brilliance?

        2. Either you are being intentionally obtuse (likely) or you are completely ignorant of who Jobs was. He greatest strength was recognizing genius in others and motivating (even driving) them to achieve the greatness they were intended to.
          This is true at the original Apple, The Macintosh group, At Pixar and at Next

          Next management (not just steve) took over as management at Apple after their purchase just as Pixar became the creative leadership at Disney after their purchase.

          Steve has found and cultivated a truly awesome group of people, they will be able to lead Apple to greatness for the next 15-20 years. Is Apple handicapped after that without the visionary who was able to see the potential in leaders long before it was evident? Possibly, but then they will just be at parity with the other consumer electronics companies. Keep in mind that is 15-20 years off and they have momentum (of being a superbly run company) after that.
          MS and google are running on momentum only (MS has been running on momentum for 10 or more years)

          And as far as JC penny goes… Many were calling Apple dead long after Jobs took over the reins. Time will tell (and like at apple it might not be evident in the first year) if the massive course change that JCPenny has undertaken will be successful at stemming their decline.

        1. NO, Steve was the driving force at Apple, always was. Read his Biography. He pushed Apple to develop those revolutionary products (iPod, iPhone and iPad) and bet the company on those products. Who has the cajones at Apple to do that? Who is the innovator-in-chief at Apple now? Who can push their vision through and get things done? Who understands what the consumer wants before they themselves want the product?
          For example which CEO would change the production of their biggest product 6 weeks before the release? Steve Jobs forced Apple to place glass screen on the first iPhone as opposed to plastic. He believed glass was better (which it is). But I guarantee every CEO ( including Tim Cook) would have said we will add that in the next updated version…..but that is not what Steve Jobs would have done. He was different and that’s why Apple became different than every other company in the world. People think just having a “deep bench” will replace Steve Jobs. I’m sorry, Michaleangelo had a deep bench of Apprentices but none of them could paint the Sistine Chapel or create David.

          1. dzoolander
            Thursday, May 24, 2012 – 11:31 am · Reply

            NO, Steve was the driving force at Apple, always was. Read his Biography. He pushed Apple to develop those revolutionary products

            Mmmm you either haven read much on steve or aren’t getting “it”
            Steve was exceptional at recognizing genius and leadership in people long before even that had a clue. Lasseter has ben quoted in saying that he questioned the greatness that steve seemed so convinced he had. As it turns out Lassiter is likely the -pivotal- man that saved walt’s dream. His refusal to let disney studios put out a crap remakes of remarkable film is what saved them. It wasn’t steve, it was the man he recognizes was up to the task, and gave him the opportunity to do it. (this is typical of the kind of stories you find again and again in all of Jobs’s companies)

          2. One of my PE’s brought to my attention that I misspelled Lasseter (ie John Lasseter) and without the first name you couldn’t even google that spelling and get a proper result.

  5. ” investors now have the CEO’s ear for the first time in years”

    Complete speculation: Cook may be giving investors more face time, but he is not listening any more than Jobs did.

    With regard to the hypothesis that Apple so badly needed to get on the same path as everyone else, my question is how anyone can write that without trying to be satirical. Under his leadership, disavowing the “this is how it’s done” bullshit, Apple thrived like few companies. How is being more like the losers good? I don’t think Cook is changing the core of Apple, but he seems more image conscious than Jobs. I wouldn’t mistake that for overhauling the company to be more corporate. Being more corporate is exactly what Apple has and should keep avoiding.

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