Tim Cook's Apple Quadrants

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.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Rene you had a column a few months ago about Tim Cook after one year & noted his accomplishments. I replied that Apple & Tim Cook still was very much in Steve Jobs' shadow. With these management shakeups, particularly Forestall who was a Steve Jobs guy all the way, we can see if indeed Tim Cook is going to take Apple in a new, more exciting direction. I also want to see if Jony Ive has truly great design that applies across the board & not just Dieter Rams as his inspiration. By moving further away from Jobs, & his questionable ethics as well as legacy, I think Apple can really do great things. Look no further than Microsoft for what happens when a company keeps itself tied to its founder even after they are gone. Steve Balmer may finally be starting to get it with the Surface, Windows 8, & Windows Phone 8. But look how long its taken & the loss of opportunities that have ensued. I want to see Apple quit acting like a victim in court. I want to see Apple not act as if it's the mothership of invention & innovation. And yes I want to see Apple be honest about its history & Steve Jobs. If Tim Cook can change the management team from Steve Jobs loyalists to Apple loyalists, & move the company forward, that'll be his biggest accomplishment. Lord knows they can't keep looking to his ghost & asking, "What would Steve do?"
  • "Lord knows they can't keep looking to his ghost & asking, "What would Steve do?" I don't think the execs at Apple do. Now the blogosphere and the tech press, that's a different story.
  • Yes exactly. Apple is haunted by the spectre of Steve Jobs, especially with regards to the 7 inch tablet form factor. Steve's declaration of the death of 7 inch tablets was frankly mere hubris and Tim Cook should stop feeling like he has to keep defending Steve's statements. Whatever Steve's thoughts on the 7 inch form factor was, it's clear that Apple has now dipped its toes into the pond. While I agree that iOS tablet apps are better than Android's blown up phone apps, Cook's comments that the iPad mini is not a 7 inch tablet is splitting hairs in my opinion. This may have worked with Steve around, but Apple's reality distortion field is definitely not as strong in the post-Jobs era.
  • darrenlowjq says: "Cook's comments that the iPad mini is not a 7 inch tablet is splitting hairs in my opinion." I thought so too, until they showed how much more content was visible (on the iPad mini vs the Nexus 7) with that extra inch in screen, different aspect ratio and less UI buttons.
  • Perhaps, you might be right. Disclaimer, I have yet to touch an iPad mini and feel no desire to get one anytime soon. The Nexus 7 is by no means unusable by any stretch of the imagination, at least for my personal use case. I should know, I own one, alongside an iPad 2. In that regard, I don't believe that the iPad mini could provide me any more utility that I could not get from my Nexus 7. That aside, the main point I wanted to make wasn't the issue about splitting hairs, that's a matter of opinion. Rather, I feel that Tim Cook should not feel constrained by what Steve Jobs said, it is not gospel (even if some treat it as such). I feel that Tim should be able to break with the past and explore options that Apple under Jobs wouldn't have touched with a 10 foot pole (or so Steve vehemently proclaims and then does it anyway later). Tim's reasoning that the iPad mini is a whole different product category (ok maybe I exaggerate a little here) really sounds very contrived to me and that he is just trying not to catch flak from the Jobs devotees who would then say "Steve would never have done that." That said, I'm not saying the iPad mini is a bad product, just that I think Tim Cook shouldn't have to do this much justification for the existence of a mini. If the market demands it, there is nothing wrong with giving them what they want.
  • Investors are nervous about Apple right now. It feels like Apple is at a fork in the road. Depending on how Tim Cook and team navigate through this rough patch will determine if they continue to succeed and prosper or end up like Microsoft. I am an Apple fanboy and own stock in the company. So my hope is that the company will continue to innovate and make loads of money. We will know by next quarter if Apple is slowly fading away or continue to go gangbusters. www.beyondcareersuccess.com
  • Of course Apple is at a fork in the road; management shakeups tend to do that. I doubt you'll see the fruits of the new management structure in six months. Apple doesn't work that way. They take the long view. I'm willing to bet it won't be till 2014 that you see the results of this move. And besides, the products roadmap for 2013 was probably set well before Forstall's and Browett's removal.
  • As much as I like Cook as a person, I don't see apple going anywhere under his guidance...
  • Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Sit back, relax, grab a beer & enjoy the ride.
  • Let the shareholders worry about that... I am willing to give him a try. Besides I don't want to go back to the old days of Apple changing CEOs like underwear.
  • I know what you mean, my personal opinion is that a company like Apple that depends on continuous innovation needs a visionary at the helm. While I have no doubt that Tim Cook is very good at running Apple's operations, I think that Apple with Jony Ive at the helm would be a much more interesting company, especially now that we know that Forstall was probably holding back iOS with his flights of skeumorphic fancy. As a student of operations, if anything, I should be rooting for Tim. However, my gut feeling is that a leader with a background in product design would be a much better fit. Cold, hard logic doesn't hold the answers for how Apple should proceed going forward, in my opinion.
  • since jony is now overlord emperor of software and hardware what does 'the hardware' do?
  • this is hardly simplified they all seem to be head of software or hardware or both
  • Only time will tell how Cook will run Apple. Not to be considered as a replacement, but as the official leader of Apple. GizmoTrims.com - iPhone 4 & 5 cases / Galaxy S 3 cases/ & MUCH MORE!
  • He fired the guy who basically created iOS and delivered six iterations of it, and replaced him with someone who doesn't know anything about software design but talks like Yoda.
    Now most the loyal users think iOS7 is utterly ugly, and many of them viscerally hate it.
    Good job, Mr. Cook.