When Steve Jobs returned to Apple from NeXT he famously found their product lines confounding. When Tim Cook inherited Apple, an argument could be made that Steve Jobs' greatest product, Apple itself, was confounding. Steve Jobs' solution, famously, was to draw a simple grid and in each of its four quadrants, laptop and pro laptop, desktop and pro desktop, placed a core product. Tim Cook just did the same thing, drawing up a simple grid, and in each of its four quadrants, design and technology, software and services, placed a core person -- Jony Ive and Bob Mansfield, Craig Federighi and Eddy Cue.
Steve Jobs took Apple from a plethora of ill-defined and overlapping computers to a clearly defined product line that removed internal overhead and customer confusion alike. While the iBook (MacBook) and PowerBook (MacBook Pro) and iMac and Power Mac (Mac Pro) have once again grown into a larger product line, and one now in adolescent-like transition, once that transition passes, Apple will likely return to a simpler scheme. Arguably their iOS device lineup has already filled out in a similar way -- mobile and pro mobile, portable and pro portable, with iPod touch, iPhone, iPad mini, and iPad all in their relative positions.
Tim Cook is now taking Apple from an overlapping group of people, some responsible for iOS and some OS X, some responsible for hardware design and some software, some responsible for some services but not others, and clearly defining roles and responsibilities that remove internal roadblocks and hedge against the fiefdoms that plague other, large, second generation leadership teams. Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Craig Federighi, Eddy Cue will each set up teams to support their new roles, and industrial and interface design, chips and antennas, iOS and OS X, and data centers and ecommerce, and more, will all still get individual attention, but they'll benefit from better defined, more collective leadership.
Phil Schiller remains the product guy, Peter Oppenheimer the money guy, Dan Riccio the hardware guy, Jeff Williams the operations guy, Bruce Sewell the legal guy, and Tim Cook the top guy, but the core of Apple has been reinvented. Tim Cook's Apple has been reinvented. Despite what Steve Jobs did, or what Steve Jobs would do, this is what Tim Cook did. It's what someone newly in charge, coming into that charge, does.
Now we get to see how well this simplified, clarified team can execute.