UBS analyst explains why he questioned if Apple CEO Tim Cook has a grand strategy

“In the earnings call following Apple’s Q4 2016 financial results, UBS managing director Steven Milunovich asked CEO Tim Cook a rather pointed question: ‘Does Apple has a grand strategy for what it wants to do over next 3-5 years? Or does it react to the market then decide?’” Ben Lovejoy reports for 9to5Mac. “Cook was widely felt to be uncomfortable with the question, and Milunovich has now explained why he asked it, and how well prepared he thinks Apple is for the future.”

“Milunovich told Business Insider that Apple has historically had a clear strategy, but he’s not sure that its current approach is as clear. In particular, he referenced a Harvard Business School term known as ‘jobs theory.’ This refers to jobs that people want to get done rather than Steve Jobs, but he says that Steve was very good at taking this approach,” Lovejoy reports. “Coined by Clay Christensen, the phrase essentially argues that Starbucks might think it’s in the business of selling coffee, but the job many of its customers want it to do is provide a meeting place for friends or a temporary office. Companies need to think not about products, but what jobs customers want to get done.”

[With Apple Watch] they introduced a number of jobs to be done, including some that you alluded to in terms of not needing to pull out the phone just to get notifications. They talked a lot about notifications, sending cards to friends and so forth. And it took a year or two to see there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of demand for that job. Some of the applications turned out to be not early but just wrong in terms of expectations of use. — Steven Milunovich, UBS

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If the Apple Watch, from launch to today, doesn’t starkly illustrate an Apple without Steve Jobs at the helm, nothing does – well, except for the Maps debacle, “Mac Genius” ads, iMacs missing Christmas 2012, rudderless Apple TV, pervasive Mac malaise, Apple Music and iTunes UI disasters, Siri Remote “design,” no new iPads for Christmas, MIA AirPods, etc., etc., etc.

Forget about the Vision Thing™ with Tim Cook, we’re not even seeing the Operations Genius™ thing.

Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Apple’s monster hits – November 25, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook still hasn’t introduced a mega-hit and investors are growing impatient – November 23, 2016


    1. If you think that then you were around in the mid 1990s when Apple nearly closed down.
      TC marshaled the massive growth in the company from 1997 when SJ took back the company. Without his logistics expertise Apple would not have pulled it off.
      But it is fair to say that Apple is losing its way to some extent. I think they are trying to push too many product launches in the same Fall window and that is resulting in delays and supply issues. They need to spread the launches out more to reduce the strain. It also has an added benefit of getting marketing attention for new products throughout the year.

      1. Not only do I remember it, I actually worked in the technology industry for 20-years.

        What makes Tim Cook’s destruction of Apple so incredible is that it was done in a time of unprecedented prosperity for Apple.

        Those that don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

        1. I think Tim Cook is squandering great opportunities but that’s just my point of view as someone who isn’t likely capable of being a CEO. I think a person like Steve Jobs is a rarity and I don’t expect Tim Cook to be Steve Jobs. Let’s put it this way. I don’t really understand Apple’s direction.

          Why can’t any Apple computer support a modern desktop GPU? Why are the MacMinis being crippled by non-upgradeability. Why doesn’t the MacPro have standard PCIE slots like every other pro computer on the planet? Why doesn’t Apple bother to upgrade their computers more often as other companies do?

          Apple just seems to be doing things I really don’t understand as to why. That’s why I don’t get what Cook is doing to the company? If he would just explain what their end game is I might feel he isn’t deliberately messing up Apple. It’s as though he’s trying to push a fair number of consumers away from the company’s computer products. Apple could certainly afford to offer at least one customizable computer product that can support all types of upgrades.

  1. Can I add: the number of things that do NOT “just work” in iOS is infuriating. I had my iPhone 6S battery replaced by Apple under a recall recently (some built in Sep/Oct 2015 die – at least they don’t explode!), and restoring from an iCloud backup left a large number of things broken, not-configured, or just plain not restored. I had to do several hours of work to log in to things, fix settings, put things back the way they were, and still have no downloaded music. To get my music back, I’ll have to remember and manually re-download the songs that were on the phone, since apparently the backup doesn’t bother to mark things as “this was ON the phone, so download it when restoring from backup.”
    What a pain in the ass!

    This doesn’t even include the replacement process itself:
    1. Cannot lookup whether my battery needs to be replaced by serial number, so you have to go to an Apple Store to find out.
    2. Waiting at least a half hour or so after my scheduled appointment, wondering why they are so far behind. I mean, I guess a scrappy little company like Apple can’t afford to hire more staff for its stores.
    3. Being told: “Yep, your battery needs to be replaced, but we don’t have them in stock, so you’ll have to come back once it comes in.”
    4. Several days later, being told my battery is there.
    5. Going in to the store, then being told “We can’t replace the battery, so we’re going to give you a new phone” and thinking they could have done THAT 3 days ago, since I’m pretty sure they had iPhones in stock.
    6. Restoring from backup taking hours, then leading to all the problems I mentioned earlier.

    So, when people use the “Apple is focusing on iPhones” excuse for their poor execution everywhere else, I’d say “Apparently not focusing on the iPhone enough, either!”

    1. Wow. Um, OK. I thought there was some sympathy for pointing out that Apple needs to improve in some ways, especially by people here at MDN who really care about Apple’s products continuing to be great. Apparently people really didn’t like to hear about a bad experience I had.

      1. I have some sympathy for you, Krioni. But, after starting your post with “…the number of things that do NOT “just work” in iOS is infuriating,” you mention only *one* thing – the restore function. And it is not clear in your post if all of that is Apple’s fault. For instance, I like to sync playlists of music to my iOS devices. If you had used that approach, then you would have been able to quickly reload your music.

        You did run into a bit of hassle with your iPhone repair/replacement. But, you only had to wait 30 minutes during your first visit and ended up getting a new phone on your second visit. That is not ideal – your situation should have been fixed during your first visit. But in the grand scheme of things, it is not that bad compared to the horrific situations that I have faced with other companies/products.

        Based on that viewpoint, your post comes off as overly dramatic and a bit whiny.

      2. KingMel is another peterblood71 alias, Krioni.

        He’s bascially the only Tim Cook fanboy left. He uses different aliases to try and appear as though there are more Cook supporters.

      3. No, people don’t like to hear about Apple screwing up. Its the same mentality that brought you the choice between Clinton and Trump. My candidate is hopeless but the alternative is a nightmare to me, so I’ll reflexively attack critics and ignore my candidate’s shortcomings.

        But it remains true that Apple is screwing up regardless. They could be owning the world but they persist in removing functionality, discontinuing useful products and making life difficult for their customers.

  2. While Forstall wasn’t perfect, he was a lot of the brains behind OS X and iOS. Perhaps he wasn’t CEO worthy, but booting him was probably a bad move overall. Who knows? Maybe that’s what we’re waiting for – the second coming of the now-humbled Forstall to take Apple on a new course.

  3. “Cook was widely felt to be uncomfortable with the question”

    Or alternatively he was wondering how best to politely answer such a stupid question without belittling that person.

    If anybody seriously imagines that Apple doesn’t have a grand strategy for the next 3-5 years, then they must be insane. If you just consider iPhones, there is no way that they could build hundreds of millions of iPhone 8s in 2017 unless the design is already pretty well finalised and that design process will have started a few years ago. The iPhone 9 will already be in an advanced state of preparation and I have no doubt that they have started preliminary work on models beyond 2019.

    Similarly, when it comes to Apple’s semiconductor designs, you don’t just sketch out a new CPU design on the back of a cigarette pack and get somebody to build it for you. The design and testing process is measured in years and before they can start designing it, Apple needs to have a pretty clear idea of the products they intend to put it in and what it will be required to do.

    You only have to superficially glance at how Apple’s recent products and services have worked together to realise that this was the result of a strategy that stretched well into the future and it’s inconceivable that Apple would not these days be looking at least as far into the future as they previously did.

    I find it quite worrying that somebody who claims to be an analyst could ask such a damn fool question.

    1. STFU, you Tim Cook lobbyist/apologist.

      All you have is your MDN rating hack. You boost the number up past 100 inflated posts then set the rating at less than 2, while you give all yours posts 5-stars.

      We don’t want or need you here any longer. We all know that Tim Cook sucks (literally and figuratively), and your tired little MDN rating hack does NOTHING to change that, but does show just how desperate and pathetic you and all your other gay identities are.

      1. Ah, didn’t realize the rating hack was a thing. Perhaps it explains the savage rating I got for describing a recent bad experience I had? And, that bad experience happened despite the fact that it was a product recall BY Apple and on top of that I paid for AppleCare.

        1. Unfortunately, peterblood71, alanaudio, and many others have are the same person. He uses his MDN hack for people who say anything negative about Cook. You can always tell what alias he’s using because they all have 5-stars.

        2. No, Krioni, I don’t think that you can use that “rating hack” speculation to explain the voting results for your earlier post. I explained my take in response to your post. Maybe that will help.

      2. Untrue, anonymous griper. The positive vote total is the result of a reasonable response. I wholeheartedly concur with alanaudio.

        In addition, I disagree with your label and disparage tactic. We are not “apologizing” for Cook. But we do appear to have a much more balanced perspective on the good things that he has done as well as the bad things. You and your ilk are focused on the bad.

  4. “We have exciting things in the pipeline.” – T.Cook 2012
    “We have exciting things in the pipeline.” – T. Cook 2013
    “We have exciting things in the pipeline.” – T. Cook 2014
    “We have exciting things in the pipeline.” – T. Cook 2015
    “We have exciting things in the pipeline.” – T. Cook 2016
    “We have things in the pipeline. ” – T. Cook 2017
    “We have a pipeline.” – T. Cook 2018
    “Anyone wanna buy a spaceship? – T. Cook 2019

  5. To those looking out for revolutionary products to come out year after year, I am not sure you know what you are looking out for and what it takes to deliver them (if you know).

    Why don’t you look to another company and ask them what revolutionary products they have come up with year after year?

    1. It’s practically impossible for any company to come out with a revolutionary product year after year and keep the business profitable. Apple isn’t running a Formula One or LMP racing team but most of Wall Street believes that’s how Apple should be run. A company selling consumer goods would be at too much risk trying to sell prototype products. Apple has to be very, very careful and not have an exploding Note 7 incident.

      I really think that Samsung’s flagship smartphones are definitely ahead of Apple’s curve in certain ways, but Apple sells far more flagship smartphones than Samsung does. Greater quantity components are harder to come by and distribution is much harder when demand is higher. Already Apple has problems meeting iPhone demand, so it would be a delay disaster if Apple wanted to use OLED displays for even their top models. Apple has to be sure it can get enough components and reliable components before starting any production. Wall Street simply doesn’t understand anything about production problems.

      It seems the tech-critics, pundits and Wall Street pricks are only interested in how flashy a product is. How many features that can be packed into a smartphone seems like a sales priority to these people. Most of the people I know aren’t all that interested in hundreds of features in a smartphone because they’re not all that tech savvy. At most, they only use a few features but expect them to be trouble-free and easy to use. Most are not power-users.

  6. Steve Jobs was not only a vision guy, but he was a get it done guy in motivating his work force. I saw Jony Ive and Tim Cook as the extensions of that and if it would’ve worked they should’ve been made Co-CEOs. Now with Jony Ive kind of on the sidelines and Tim running the thing he’s trying to be a visionary (which he’s not) and letting the operations slip. I forget right now what Ive’s roll is in the company anymore, but he should be brought back on board to help out Tim more with the vision thing.

  7. I think the question Steven asked Tim in the earnings cal was a legitimate question. Don;t give us the “We like what we see in the pipeline” again, and then show us that AppleTV will now have a TV app (a.k.a. a TV Guide).. wow.. blow us away Tim… TERRIBLE!!!!!!! There is a such a HUGE list of fails under his leadership that I am done with it. I gave the guy more than enough chances to get the job done and he has FAILED FAILED FAILED at it. His keynotes are becoming snoozefests…. product cycles are unacceptable, his vision lacks, the manufacturing process is too long to meet demand (see every iPhone release and it’s wait times.. ya know, consumers LOVE to wait for a product they WANT NOW… NOT)… I’m SO DONE with him as a CEO. Keep in for operations and let someone else lead the company… please…
    sign this please so it creates more awareness…

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