What only Tim Cook's Apple can do

It's been almost two weeks since the WWDC 2014 keynote and a week exactly since the event itself wrapped up and not only is the feeling of excitement still very much alive, but smart analysis of what happened and why is still being shared. Not surprisingly, some of the best is focusing on and around Apple's CEO, Tim Cook. Also not surprisingly, John Gruber sums it up perfectly for Daring Fireball:

Apple has never been more successful, powerful, and influential than it is today. They've thus never been in a better position to succumb to their worst instincts and act imperiously and capriciously.Instead, they've begun to act more magnanimously. They've given third-party developers more of what we have been asking for than ever before, including things we never thought they'd do. [...]It's downright thrilling that this is coming from Apple in a position of strength, not weakness. I'm impressed not just by what Apple can do, but by what it wants to do.

Gruber also addresses Tim Cook's role in shaping the Apple of today. The loss of Steve Jobs as CEO has gotten incredible attention and prompted commentary both profound and pathetic, but the gain of Tim Cook as CEO hasn't received nearly as much consideration. Cook reshaped Apple's organization the way Jobs did it's product line.

As Matt Drance puts it so well on Apple Outsider:

The "Continuity" suite of features says more to me than anything else announced last week, naturally blurring the line between Mac and iPhone and iPad while still accepting each product for what it is. Recent updates to OS X seemed intent on forcing iOS down the Mac's throat. Last week, for what felt like the first time ever, the two were on equal footing: an Apple device is an Apple device is an Apple device. This shot of creativity, connectivity, integration, and inclusion points to drastic change from within. When I wrote "Regime Change" in 2012, nearly everyone assumed the title referred to the fall of Scott Forstall. It in fact referred to the rise of Tim Cook.

How successful Apple will be over the course of the next few years remains to be seen, but there's every indication Cook has given them the structural opportunity to be wildly so, and not just in terms of money but in terms of technology and humanity.

Almost three years in, what do you think about what Tim Cook's Apple is doing?

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.

  • He is doing fine. That will do pig, that will do.
  • I think Tim Cook is doing great, considering he is in the hottest seat of any CEO I can think of in my fairly-long memory. Faced with following one of the most famous, widely beloved CEO's in history, one whose premature death was felt around the world, one who introduced products thousands waited in line overnight just to have a chance to purchase, one whose visibility dominated the press for years, Tim Cook has had to face a modern avalanche of scorn from a writing and analysis fraternity trying to score points for calling for his head if Apple's stock should ever languish or his new products should ever fail to revolutionize the world. No CEO has ever had to endure so much scrutiny and criticism after his 2-3 month "honeymoon" on the job. TC has had to follow the legacy and memory of the much-respected Steve Jobs, the CEO for whom best selling books have been written, two movies have been made, and about whom flowers and sympathy notes were placed in front of his retail shops around the world upon hearing of his tragic death. I will be so happy when Apple's shares start to get the higher PE ratio respect it deserves as its valuation continues to climb, and its hit-whore naysayers get ignored and move on with their criticism to some other high-flying companies that earn 1/3 as much profit or less. Nobody really knew Apple as well as Steve Jobs, and I think one of his best and most methodical decisions was to deliberately pick Tim Cook to be his very-personal successor.
  • Ditto. Tim Cook: one of the best decisons Mr. jobs ever made.
  • Gruber's piece made me think of Houseman's "To an Athlete Dying Young" http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175749 Had Jobs been able to continue, would he have had the grace to step aside and into the emeritus role Gruber suggests, or would he have continued in his preferred style, and, had he done so, received the same blame and scorn now heaped on his protege Forstall? Sent from the iMore App
  • The drive behind ambitious genius is often seemingly associated with a kind of cruel hostility. If Apple can maintain Jobs' momentum in the former while jettisoning the latter it will have become a model for other legacy success stories to come.
  • Rene, Couldn't agree more. My initial reaction to WWDC was that none of this would have happened if Steve was still running things, but I like your take better. The next big challenge for TC will be making iDrive work, since we all know that Apple does not have much of a track record when it comes to Cloud Tech. Again his approach holds out the hope of success; instead of yelling and firing people, TC will get people to work together and solve the problems. I'm going long AAPL.
  • My thoughts exactly....and to your point about Jobs, he took a very hard stand concerning 7-8 inch tablets. Enter the very successful ipad mini. Jobs also insisted that the 3.5 inch iphone was the perfect size for everyone. Enter the 4.7 inch and possibly the 5.5 inch iphone. Thank you Mr. Cook for having the wisdom to expand the Apple mobile product line so that more people can choose the size, performance, and price point, that fits their lifestyle. Jobs would have had none of it...
  • I don't know about that, before Steve died Apple had about 5 years of future products in development. That means until 2016 most of Apple's products had heavy involvement from Steve, and he said no and never to a lot of things until they were done right.
  • He's doing a really good job and I think that is because he gets "values." He can't run everything like Steve Jobs would do - that would be suicide. You can't pretend to be someone else and think you'll succeed. He has to run things and shepherd products along the way he wants to, but as long as he and his team retain an attention to detail and commitment to quality that is what is true to the spirit of the company Steve Jobs founded. If the chance comes to chart a change in course (like keyboards or inter-app communication) it is clear he will okay it if the product doesn't suffer (and of course we'll soon find out if it does or does not). Even only these short few years on the specifics on "What would Steve do" shouldn't matter anymore. What would Walt Disney have done if "The Lion King" had come across his desk? It was a different world that made that a huge success - not his world or time. But his company, with the values and goals he molded in to it, made a great piece of art beloved the world over. As long as Tim Cook serves Apple's core values he will continue to be successful. And Apple will make great products well in to the future.
  • Tim Cook's Apple (like you said, Rene) began with the reimagination of Apple's leadership in the same way Steve reinvented Apple's product line, back in the mid 1990's when Apple was months away from financial death. Conversation struck, both clever and critical, profound and pathetic - when Tim made his drastic overhaul of the executive team. It was up to Apple, and Tim, to prove Apple's ability to not suck post Steve. Apple in 2014 is in every way the fruition of Tim Cook's Apple. If there were any doubters before (unless your last name is Kane, and you happened to have maybe written a book entitled 'Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs' or something like that) WWDC 2014 likely changed your mind dramatically. 2014 is the year of confidence, clarity, and excitement regarding Apple's future. Tim Cook's Apple somehow manages to have an even greater long term perception value now than we've probably ever seen from Apple. I know I'm more excited now about Apple's future than ever before.
  • I donno. Apple's maps are the joke of the industry. Apple has not managed to enter the services business => Apple's cloud is equally a joke. Why do I need Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox services on my iPhone? Cook has not introduced a single new product during his time as a CEO, unless you count the failed iOS 7 launch. Rather, Apple has but copied its competitors. I donno. I don't get it, perhaps, why this man is so good...
  • Ios7 is a failure? I laughed at that nonsense. Sent from the iMore App
  • Kind of sad Cook is still in Jobs' shadow given all he has accomplished on his own. That said, Jobs released legendary products under his watch while Cook has yet to do so. Inertia can take a company a long way (hi Microsoft) but at some point you need a revolution.
  • What's a revolutionary product? Cook's in a position where the biggest hardware product of the next long while (smartphones) has already been released. No one knows what if anything can make more money than that (wearables won't, not enough margin at not enough volume.) So does Cook accept that, or does he try to change the definition of revolutionary products into something beyond periodic hardware releases? (Would an Apple Fridge be revolutionary? Maybe, but would it be a good product for Apple to release? Will Continuity be revolutionary, even if it involves no new hardware?)
  • Something that changes the industry and in turn becomes an industry in itself; the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. I doubt any of those products were designed with the notion of "what can we make the most profit from", yet everything Apple makes now probably is. On a side note, the notion that profit is even discussed for a new product is sad within itself, as if profit trumps all (it really shouldn't for a company the size of Apple). Innovation is hard (as you wrote about many times) and Apple has lost most of the talent that designed all of the revolutionary products, so I can see a long Microsoft like road for them (lots of $$ but very little innovation). I don't know, maybe Iovine can shake things up in the company. He is a creative guy with a long track record of success.
  • I think they been trying to move faster on Apple TV and music streaming (which is why I think they bought beats to seal the content deals), lack of quality game controllers for iOS needs sorting quickly and reports about dodgy car play touch screens and usability. But he's done a great job especially with reassigning design teams within Apple. The iPad still could be marketed to be the PC killer.
  • My biggest fear was that an Apple without Jobs would unlearn to say "no". Fortunately that did not happen. They resisted the urge/pressure to release crap, just to satisfy the noise from all the experts that want Apple to join the oh so innovative spaghetti-against-the-wall approach of Google, Samsung and MS. They also refused to join the aforementioned in their everlasting vaporware announcement and me-too games. Nothing to complain here.
  • The best thing Cook did was reorganize Apple leadership to get rid of silos and fiefdoms. Everyone is working together for the betterment of the company, not their division or specific product.
  • Two words from this article pretty well sum it up for me; "magnanimous" and "humanity" . . these are qualities Mr Cook most definitely brings to the table as improvements over Mr Jobs. (imo)
  • "It's thrilling that this is coming from a apple in a position of strength not weakness" something I hadn't thought about but very true and awesome
  • In my opinion Tim Cook is doing an amazing job, I mean, Apple's numbers speak for itself. The one that I don't think that is doing his job properly is Jony Ive. Poor UI design with iOS 7 and Yosemite, really bad decisions in that matter. "If you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager... they blew it. Users shouldn't ever have to think about it." Does anyone know who said that? Steve Jobs. That one was a great example for the legacy he should have left at Apple. Now we have "dark mode", "reduce motion", "increase contrast", "button shapes", "reduce transparency" and my favorite: "reduce white point". Man... Jony's design is so inconsistent that he already blew it, just like the Steve Jobs quote.
  • So that's why over 90% of iOS devices are running iOS 7? And why initial reviews of Yosemite Beta are quite favorable? God forbid people are given choices instead of having to live with what Steve Jobs thought was right. God forbid Apple actually listen to customers rather than arrogantly assuming they know what's best. I'm sure if Steve were still around we wouldn't have things like control center (no one should need to mess around with settings) or 3rd party keyboards (you'll use Apple's keyboard and you'll like it). We wouldn't have iPad mini if Steve had his way because according to Bob Igor Steve didn't think there was a market for it. It was Tim Cook who believed Apple customers would love a smaller, cheaper tablet. Steve wasn't always right.
  • I don't know, I updated once and disliked. I know other people (including an UX specialist) thinking the same way as me, and you know we can't downgrade (I would love to, not because I don't like changes, I don't like his colorful, use of gradients and transparency and the whole white). Posted via iMore App
  • Interestingly, most of the designers we've talked to who initially disliked iOS 7's design language now like it quite a bit. People are often averse to change but we also hate getting bored. We're funny creatures.
  • Yes, that friend was the opposite. At start she liked, then with time she started to dislike. IMHO there's a lot of fans of Apple, they're loyal fans, that's why they "start to like with time". They'll always go for Apple, because Apple's brand has a message, a porpoise, even if they can't see that they left something huge in the hands of a genius hardware designer that never had any projects in designing software. I'm not a total specialist in UX, I'm a marketing guy, but there are tons of things screaming at me when I look at iOS 7. Once I did the jailbreak and disabled that "band dock", instantly the springboard looked better. Saturated icons with gradients doesn't work for me, but hey... It's my opinion. Also, I would like to ask people that criticize skeuomorphism what they think about the fake glass everywhere in the UI. Remember: skeuomorphism is mimicking real life objects. Posted via iMore App
  • Kind of missing that whole skeuomorphism thing, are you?
  • Seriously? "An interface that’s very white
    With type that’s thin and ultra light
    And gradients so fucking bright
    That you will lose your fucking sight."
    - @JonyIveParody Posted via iMore App
  • He is doing great. His mindset is right where it needs to be. Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple needed to grow up? Tim Cook needs to grow up? I don't think so. What Apple needed was time to grieve the loss of its twice founder. It had to be completely heartbreaking. Grief takes its own time. But hearts that are broken are broken open. And the deeper we experience grief, the more capacity we have for experiencing gladness. That's what I saw at WWDC. Apple's loss transmuted by grief to gain.