Why Steve Jobs picked Tim Cook as his successor

Steve Job, who once described Tim Cook as “not a product guy,” nevertheless picked Cook as his successor for his operations skill and mastery of Apple’s supply and assembly chain, much of which, as designed by Cook, is based in China.

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook (photo: Getty Images)

Tripp Mickle for The New York Times:

It had been nearly three years since Steve Jobs died at the age of 56, and as C.E.O., Mr. Cook had looked to Mr. Ive — the man Mr. Jobs called his “spiritual partner” — to lead product development… In the wake of Mr. Jobs’s death, colleagues said, Mr. Ive fumed about corporate bloat, chafed at Mr. Cook’s egalitarian structure, lamented the rise of operational leaders and struggled with a shift in the company’s focus from making devices to developing services.

Disillusioned with Mr. Cook’s Apple, Mr. Ive would depart five years later, in 2019. His exit would change forever the balance of power at the top of a company long defined by its product ingenuity, leaving it without one of its most creative thinkers and the driving force behind its last new device category…

In Mr. Ive’s absence, Mr. Cook has accelerated a shift in strategy that has made the company better known for offering TV shows and a credit card than introducing the kind of revolutionary new devices that once defined it.

This account of Mr. Ive’s resignation is adapted from a new book, After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul, that I wrote. The book is based on interviews with more than 200 people, including former and current employees at Apple, as well as with friends and former colleagues of Mr. Ive…

[Jobs’ and Ive’s] fast friendship and collaboration contrasted with the evolution of Mr. Jobs’s relationship with Mr. Cook. It took a push from colleagues who feared Hewlett-Packard might poach Mr. Cook for Mr. Jobs to promote to him to chief operations officer in 2005, according to people familiar with the promotion. Mr. Jobs’s decision to later tap Mr. Cook as his successor was motivated in part by the recognition that half of the company’s value came from Mr. Cook’s ability to manufacture and deliver its devices on time. Those skills would be critical to taking the iPhone from sales of 10 million units a year to 200 million.

Even so, Mr. Jobs considered Mr. Ive the company’s second-most powerful executive. He thrust the design team to the forefront of Apple’s product development process, ensuring it played a central role in the iPod, iPhone and iPad…

Mr. Cook seldom visited [Ive’s design] studio… On one of the few occasions he did, it was to see a Leica camera Mr. Ive had helped design for a charity auction. Mr. Ive glowed as he detailed the designers’ work on the camera for Mr. Cook, who nodded expressionlessly. People watching across the studio would later joke that they caught Mr. Cook’s eyes straying from the charity camera to the nearby design tables topped with iPhones, iPads and Macs that the company sold for tremendous profit. He stayed only a few minutes.

MacDailyNews Note: Mickle’s book, After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul is available for pre-order ahead of its May 3, 2022 release via Amazon in various formats here.

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32 Comments

  1. Here come all the ‘Cook is Bad’ posts. He should do this do that. He put all of Apple’s eggs in the China Basket. As if he (or ANY other manufacture) has any viable / realistic options.

    1. India is already one. Then there is Brazil and Germany. And the US. Somehow Elon musk managed to diversify and build high tech in the us. In California and Texas. Thanks for owning yourself and your bias.

    2. Yes, so what’s your point?

      Cook needs to be replaced by a creative CEO juggernaut that does not sit around all day working on supplier spreadsheets figuring ways to increase MUCH MORE PROFIT.

      Musk? Ive? Forstall? All creative genuses that can effectively use Apple’s vast resources and put R&D bucks to GREATER USE than ever before…

    3. The title; “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul,” is not hyperbole.

      “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

      Very fitting per the situ mentioned in the book and as it relates to the quote above generated when SJ was iCEO….

      “….Mr. Cook, who nodded expressionlessly.”

        1. BS…not exactly. It’s one person’s POV, but many, many people have observed and experienced, at least anecdotally, the same.

          “It’s true that after Jobs died, Apple didn’t produce another device as important as the iPhone, but Apple didn’t produce another device that important before he died either.”

          This quote f the article is BS in itself. True, the iPhone was the product innovation that was all impt, but when SJ returned in ’97, he created an entirely new ethos, gestalt and a series of hard and software products that set the stage for an unusually complete customer experience…music, photography, podcasts, spreadsheets, presentation, document creation, video, and devices to hold and create the above.

          These new things were impt in making up the whole and the iPhone capped all as the tour de force.

          Yes, it’s under Cook the new silicon emerged…very, very impt, but Cook has created no new ethos/gestalt, except allegiance to Wall St. (He talks about “health” being what Apple will be remembered for and per the pace he’s moving, it’ll be too late for me). Steve’s leadership had spirit as well. Cook is a piece of wood that has successfully loaded wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of cash…thanks mostly for his developing a relationship with China. Conversely, he’s put Apple in a trap of his own making because of that relationship China.

  2. Is that Apple’s sanctimonious windbag or Geddy Lee?

    Looking old there, Tim. Might want to consider retiring and letting Apple really flourish!

    Very few get it, but Cook is a drag on the company. Always has been. He has repeatedly driven out “A” talent and God only knows how many potential customers — consumer and enterprise —  he’s alienated over the years.

    That hissy fit he threw over the legacy media’s misreporting of Charlottesville by donating $1M to the biased and corrupt SPLC was just a plain stupid move.

    Apple-backed Southern Poverty Law Center wracked in turmoil, called a ‘con’ for ‘bilking gullible liberals’

    Beyond his abuse of the Apple brand to promote his own woke, leftist, Kalifornia politics, Cook couldn’t be more boring and uninspiring if he tried.

    1. Funny. Because along with their abuse of the MacDailyNews comments section to promote their own close minded, far right wing Trumpian politics, First Then couldn’t be more boring and uninspiring if they tried.

  3. Tim Cook has done the impossible. He has successfully followed a once-in-a-generation visionary leader and made the company MORE successful than ever before. That is so rare as to be unique in the history of American business. Some of the products Cook has overseen, Apple Watch, Air Pods, Air Tags, Mac Studio, M-Series chips, are absolutely revolutionary. Not only that, but Cook has successfully navigated his company through the “woke” insanity with hardly a hiccup as well as the whole COVID mess. A wise man once said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Tim Cook should be lauded for the wise and remarkable work he has done. The only serious mistake he made/allowed, was the whole CSAM debacle. (May that mistake or one like it not be repeated. Please.) Ive was/is a genius — at design, not at running a company. Steve knew this, which is why he left him in design. Frankly, one of Steve’s best and wisest decisions was to put Tim Cook in charge of Apple. It will be a sad day when he retires. May it be far in the future.

    1. “It will be a sad day when he retires…”

      No it won’t. It’ll be a glorious day that the jackass bean counter who’s been pimping out Apple to support his pet projects and interests ever since he became CEO will finally be gone. Maybe then Apple can get a CEO in who actually cares about Apple (and not just professes it when convenient), cares about products, doesn’t use Apple Events to get on his soapbox and preach, doesn’t get on his knees and spread his cheeks to China while lecturing the rest of the world and actually cares about privacy and doesn’t slip spyware into his OS’s.

      The sooner Timmy is gone, the better.

      1. Wow, I’ve never heard Timmy’s pipeline described in that manner, seems appropriate though. That pipeline must be well oiled and well used by so, so many.

  4. Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. Nor should he try to be. Only Steve Jobs can do Steve Jobs well. For better or worse, Tim Cook has fundamentally changed . I’m sure Cook’s intentions have been to do what he thought best for  and maybe the customer. Nevertheless,  is no longer what it once was and likely will never be again. Even if Ives or Scott Forstall had become CEO the company would have changed. Those of us who were  users back in the 80’s until today can relish a history and experience that few today can ever have or comprehend. While in my opinion, Cook’s tenure has brought many negative changes, they still make the best computers, phones, etc on the planet. Maybe not “Insanely great”, but way ahead of second place. Yet, this side of heaven, all things must pass away. While sad, our hope is not in Apple, or in some man, especially Tim Cook.

  5. Apple Glasses are coming. They’re requiring 10 years of developments. Everything you see in chips, audio, AR, batteries, and services have come about because of the Glasses product on the horizon. Tim can’t be judged until that product is released. I imagine he’ll play in the sunlight of that release for 2-4 years before retiring some time between 2025-2027.

  6. Ive has done a lot for Apple. Yet, too much design kills the purpose of a tool if it goes too far. It was time for Ive to quit, and for us to find more appropriate tools on the Apple Store.

  7. All this ‘Apple has lost its soul’ BS is just that, BS.

    I’m a long time Apple user, fan, and stockholder. From my perspective, Apple is better than ever, delivering fantastic engineering and design across a broader spectrum of products, services, and creative endeavors that ever in the company’s history. On top of that, Apple’s products and services work more seamlessly and comprehensively together than ever before.

    In terms of Apple’s innovation in hardware offerings, the current crop of Macs, iPhones, and iPads are the best Apple has ever delivered – by far.

    People completely discount the iconic design, awesome functionality, and impact of the Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, and AppleTV offerings. These devices have completely carried forth the spirit of Steve Jobs’ Apple.

    I’m looking forward to Apple’s upcoming VR/AR offerings. I expect them to arrive just in time to disturb the industry just as the category is posed for mainstream success. A classic Apple move. Due to the success of Apple’s current products, Apple has had the luxury of taking their time on this new product category and waiting until the technology is ready for primetime. It expect great things.

    People forget how truly simple the iPod was as a product. It was nothing compared to the complexity of the iPhone. Some people think that the annual iPods design refreshes were the heyday of Apple design and execution – more epic that what Apple is doing now. This is just nostalgia, viewing Apple’s past with rose gold colored glasses.

  8. I was struck by one comment in the article.

    “Mr. Cook has accelerated a shift in strategy that has made the company better known for offering TV shows and a credit card than introducing the kind of revolutionary new devices that once defined it.”

    Just how many revolutionary products did Apple introduce while Steve Jobs was in charge? By my count, two – the Mac and the iPhone/iPad. Maybe you could add the iPod to the list but I would not put it in the same category as the other two. Introducing revolutionary products is hard – most companies are lucky if they introduce one. It is probably a bit early to say if the Apple Watch is a revolutionary product but I’m leaning in the direction of “yes” – and that was developed during Cook’s tenure. So, it isn’t as if Apple was regularly coming out with revolutionary products while Jobs was in charge nor is it true that innovation has completely dried up during Cook’s tenure.

    1. HCE, that’s an interesting take on things and worth considering. I agree with much of it. Yet, Apple has always been so much more than cool products. At the core of Apple was an interesting intersection of values; well designed products, married to fine arts, to empower people. Jobs and Wozniak had just enough hippie, counter culture, and zen in them to shape a different business understanding of business. Their business model placed the end users experience as a higher value than market share and profits. It wasn’t an either/or (customer vs. profit) matrix. Apple was an idea. The idea was that building something great that could democratize information, and empower people to do more than they could before was core value that both Steves shared. They believed if you build insanely great products that genuinely enrich people’s lives and improve their ability to change their corner of the world, you’ll have done something worth living for and would likely make some serious money along the way. The great products were never meant to be a cul-de-sac where the next great innovation could be bought for narcissistic pleasure or profit. Rather, it was a highway that could help people push the human race forward. Steve Jobs wanted to “make a dent in the world” that left people and the world better. IMHO, at best the matrix has be reversed. At worst, it’s been lost.

    2. I think you missed a few innovative products that teams under Jobs — not necessarily Jobs himself — brought to us.

      The Apple II in 1977 was a huge leap forward in personal computing. That alone cements Woz and Jobs as great innovators.

      In 1984, the original Macintosh again showed a significant leap forward in technology, unfortunately not so much for company profitability.

      Mac OS X, which merged the NeXT operating system with the Mac, was the correct recipe for success, especially when installed in the highly appealing colorful Macs of the early 2000’s.

      iTunes and the iPod marked the beginning of the end for physical audio media. That was a huge tectonic shift that no other company was willing to attempt at the time.

      The iPhone was Job’s final great accomplishment. It combined the usefulness of the Newton with the design of the iPod, and ditching the stylus that other PDAs relied on.

      Jobs had many failures. The Lisa, several iterations of online services starting with eWorld (anyone remember that here???), and frankly the mismanagement of Mac software all occurred on Jobs’ watch. The Mac lost the PC wars because Jobs and Apple management were too full of themselves to realize that user experience was being harmed by overpriced hardware and lack of 3rd party software. Apple did little to support small developers nor manage to keep Apple software in top shape, consistently. Example: Quicktime was innovative, but Apple lost interest and after version 7.6, it became useless. While Microsoft assembled a great Office suite from former Mac programs, Apple floundered with one half-baked office suite after another that persists to this day. Also don’t forget, Jobs hired Cook with the mission to outsource for greater profitability, and was hailed on this site for being a “genius” in doing so.

      What has Cook done? He’s continued the direction Jobs set out for Apple.

      Jobs preferred closed platforms; Cook has spent more effort by far on iOS than the Mac. Why? Monopoly App Store power. When iTunes turned out to be a success, Jobs came around to the idea that others at Apple had been pushing : use that as the blueprint for iPhone apps too. Cook took it one step further, making it impossible to load iOS software from anywhere else. At least iTunes wasn’t the only source for music.

      When Job’s vision for making everything wireless thin and portable became technical reality, Cook allowed Ive and others to take it to the extreme. One-port MacBook Airs, battery deficient iPhones, and desktop computers with no repairability, and overpriced wireless plastic headphones with became the realization of Job’s dreams after he died. Workstations with fancy machined aluminum panels for no other reason than … overpriced fashion sells.

      Flush with cash and not knowing what to do with it all, Cook has done what every other CEO has done. First, pad the personal bank account by giving yourself tons of stock options and then have Apple spend billions to buy back its own stock. Jobs just backdated his own stock options, Cook was smarter to sell the program as a way to reward shareholders without paying them appropriate dividends. Diversify the business by entering adjacent markets that can leverage the products the company already has, and try to make everything a subscription for endless revenue. ApplePay and the credit card business is training for turning the iPhone and iWatch into portable payment devices that, like the App Store, will lock out any other payment platform (where this is legal, anyway). Beats Music was chosen as the successor to iTunes because the rental model is more profitable for Apple (not so much for anyone else). The tangled web of outsourced iCloud services, another subscription, are also pushed hard. Media subscriptions are in vogue. Talking speakers and location trackers feed the Apple ad business. Instead of top hardware repairability, users are offered highly profitable insurance “Care” programs to protect their hardware. Fitness subscriptions and wrist mounted health gadgets attempt to gamify workouts, as well as fueling dreams of FDA-approvable blood monitoring (not happening in the next decade or more). After spending on all that and still finding tons of money in the Cayman bank account, Cook finally started investing again in the Mac business — this time doing what Jobs wanted to do all along, to own the entire tech stack, chips and all. Now that day has come. And there have been failures. Maps was and remains a lackluster tool for users, which is why Goeb’s favorite former executive was axed. Homepods bombed. Cylindrical Mac Pros were even more stupidly constrained than the original Mac Cube. It happens.

      Is this Cook innovation? Yes, and all clear extensions of the business Jobs built and the strategies he laid out. Would any other corporate leader would have done anything differently? The financial power of Apple speaks for itself. If anything, Cook has been too careful and slow, preferring profit over flashy products. Supposedly that is what CEOs are supposed to do, to keep pulling money from consumers and handing it to investors. Cook took the tools that he inherited and turned them into market-bending cash machines, often at the expense of 3rd party developers and user choice. Just like Jobs would have done. That won’t stop the complainers from portraying him a loser, imagining alternate realities that aren’t likely under any leader.

  9. Seems Mickle has quite the slanted take here. Cook the Heretic -vs- Saint Jonny? Are we 100% certain “Mickle” isn’t Ive’s porn name? 🤣

    I agree with the folks here who can see the difference and genius of each man, while noting their limitations, flaws, and humanity.

    Jonny was a designer, never CEO material. Too trippy, too right brain for the hundreds of balls a good CEO has to keep in the air. Many of his design ideas were pretty cool and beautiful, but left untethered? Ive began to get ridiculous and heavily favored form over function, looks over practicality, user interface, and ease of repair.

    I mean, seriously? The razor thin iMac? Why, Jonny, why? To sell more glue and overheat more Macs? That just got stupid.

    OH! And the trash can MacPro?! Jesus, Jonny! Matey, you single-handedly invalidated the case for micro-dosing! Gawd, that were ugly! 🤮

    Timo was famous for supply line stuff. Everyone knew that. Stevo knew that. Whatever you think of either man, Jobs chose––without qualms––Cook to lead when he was gone.

    My take is Jonny got pissy because Tim wasn’t in drooling awe of his British dialect and incredibly slow, drawn-out syllabic way of speaking to call attention to his genius, if not his shaved pate. I suspect behind the scenes, Jonny tried to be the ghost of Stevo and probably wanted to halt production every other month because of an edge that wasn’t beveled to his aesthetic wishes. Tim was probably the practical guy feeling pressure from stockholders and supply chains to keep things moving.

    The thing is they’re simply two very differently wired men. Neither “wrong” because of that, but without Jobs to balance them?

    The power tilted to function over form.

    What Cook has done to transform Apple into the largest publicly traded company in history should not––cannot––be dismissed. It’s impossible to believe this could have happened without change and the evolution of the corporate culture, the brand, and the products Apple produces.

    Has Apple lost its soul?

    Well, that’s a more interesting, complex question with no simple answer.

    Apple was already a corporation essentially raised from the dead by the Second Coming of Steve Jobs. We wouldn’t be typing here without the Lazarus miracle turnaround he effected like no other corporation in the history of time. But for better or worse, Jobs remade the company in his image, his personality. Apple became Jobs and was Jobs was the very essence of its corporate culture. His death meant that Apple had to lose its soul.

    It was inescapable.

    Early in the post-Jobs era, all of Apple’s successes were mostly attributed to Jobs, not Cook. Cook was “just following the playbook written by Jobs.” There was a palpable sense of grief and solemnity that moved through Apple Inc. as it tried to honor the past and figure out the present and future. Eventually (2-3 years?), analysts began to acknowledge that the Jobs’ book of revelations had played out. Apple had moved into a new era: the Tim Cook era.

    So yes, the Tim Cook era is different.

    It’s more diverse and less dependent on the iPhone being 70% of Apple’s profits (very wise). It’s expanding further into wearables, financial services, SOCs and growing the Mac market share (yay!). It’s moving into film and TV (winning Academy Awards and Emmys), fitness and health. I’d wager most of these things were on Jobs’ bucket list as well.

    While I don’t agree with every focus Cook has at Apple, I find it hard not to marvel how well he’s done at the truly impossible task of stepping into the massive shoes of someone we might arguably call The GOAT CEO.

    Steve Jobs was an impossible act to follow, but Cook has done well in his attempt.

    I also don’t think design has suffered horribly since Ive’s departure.

    I’d rather have a heavier iPhone 13 pro with an amazing camera and bumps, than to sculpt off millimeters because we’ve nothing better to do.

    I’d rather have a blazingly fast MacBook Air that runs so cold it doesn’t require a fan than a thinner version that folds into a postage stamp.

    I’d rather have a MacStudio with a utilitarian design and tons more ports, than a stupid looking MacTrash unit that people keep throwing wadded balls of paper at.

    Jonny will do fine with his hundreds of millions and new company LoveFrom focused on “the business of luxury.” The ironic thing about his company name is that it’s also an anagram for “love form,” and Jonny certainly does. He appears to love luxury too, so perhaps we’ll see a Jonny Ferrari one day.

    Meanwhile, I’m more excited about what’s going on under the hood with Apple hardware. Whether that’s the hood of an Apple car or not matters little to me.

    I’ll take innovation in hardware design and function any day over thin just to be thin for thin’s sake.

    ~

  10. All great innovations. And carplay not mentioned. Its a revolutionary extension of apple ecosystem to the car. Great engineering team to come up with carplay, which dominates the car over android auto and automotive company solutions by far.

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