🔒 Does Tim Cook fill Steve Jobs’ shoes?

LONDON — When you think of the company Apple, the first person that most of us associate the brand with is Steve Jobs. Jobs was unparalleled at developing new technology that looked so sleek, minimalistic and beautiful, ok I am an Apple fan, compared to other clunky products that competitors turned out. Some commentators however believe that Jobs was not that great as CEO and that Tim Cook, who has turned Apple into the world’s first trillion-dollar company is shaping up to be the better CEO. One of them is the Editor of the Cult of Mac.com, Leander Kahney who has written a book, ‘Tim Cook: The Genius who took Apple to the Next level’. This is Kahney’s fourth book on Apple; he also published the title, ‘Inside Steve’s Brain’. Cook did not make himself available to be interviewed by Kahney. The author told Bloomberg’s Carol Massar and Jason Kelly that the narrative when Jobs died, was that Apple is doomed under the leadership of Tim Cook. – Linda van Tilburg

The narrative around him for the first few years was exactly that. It’s like, how can he…? Apple might survive but they’re never going to thrive with Tim Cook in charge. There’s no visionary… there’s no product guy in charge and that was why I wanted to write the book, because I think it became clear after 5 years that he was doing a killer job. This is after he came out gay, before they hit the trillion-dollar valuation.

But you know what I was thinking as you’re talking, I’m thinking, ‘okay, so you move into his house, and you’ve got tons and tons of time with him.’ How do you write about somebody who I think is one of the best-known CEOs in the world and I think he’s very careful about access, and who he talks to, and the message, the company and the branding – how do you approach that? Who do you talk to?

Well, I tried to talk to as many people as I could and I tried to reach out to former colleagues, people from his school, people from his childhood, people that he worked with at Apple and it’s a very difficult company to write about because secrecy is so ingrained into that company. It’s already in their DNA, and everyone signs a big stack of papers, NDAs and secrecy agreements. So, they won’t talk, even years later. They’re very guarded.

I want to ask you, because we know in many ways, we have the evidence in front of us of what he has accomplished. Tell us a little about where he came from? I see he was a Southerner, he went to Auburn University, grew up in Alabama, at a time, obviously, you mentioned his coming out – that was not an easy way to come out and an easy place to grow-up.

No, not at all and I think this is where he gets a lot of his… He’s a very private person. He’s a big advocate of privacy, it comes from, I think, being gay in the deep South. It definitely wasn’t something that he could be open about and as far as I can tell, when I talked to some of his school friends, they didn’t know he was gay. He didn’t talk to them about it. The one girl had a crush on him and tried to go on a date with him but it had a big, profound effect on his outlook, I think, and the way that he runs Apple, was voiced at that time.

During your reporting and during your writing and putting this book together, what are some of the things that really just jumped out at you and you were like, ‘wow?’ (In terms of Tim Cook’s impact on it all and the company).

He’s using Apple’s massive resources to pursue quite a liberal agenda. He’s quite progressive and I had seen the news reports, there was a news report last year about how Apple has gone 100% renewable and he often tweets about LGBTQ issues but when I looked into it, during one of the interviews down at Apple Park. I was talking to Lisa Jackson, who’s the head of the EPA or the ex-head of EPA, who heads up Apple’s environmental initiatives, and she mentioned that there were six core values that he pursues at Apple. That he champions inside Apple, and that became the structure of the book. These things like privacy, the environment, worker responsibility, accessibility, education and I forget the other one. When I looked at that framework that was what began surprising me. I was like, ‘oh, wow, this guy has an agenda and he’s using the resource of this massive company to try to make a difference in the world.’

Read also: Apple reveals exciting new streaming services – The Wall Street Journal

Very different from Steve Jobs.

Yeah, that’s the funny thing, you see. Steve Jobs was a long-haired, kind of liberal Californian hippie, he lived on a commune, ate fruit for a diet. Dated rock-stars, he loved Bob Dylan but he was actually kind of pretty cutthroat and the way that he ran Apple was pretty cutthroat and he was like a killer, fortune-500 killer machine. He was indifferent to the environment. He was indifferent to the conditions in the supply chain and then it took a blue collar, son of the South, someone like Tim Cook, to actually care about these issues and make a big change.

Interestingly, you mentioned the supply chain, sort of having learned at IBM, sort of how this can and should work in many ways, and sort of out IBM-ing IBM ultimately, right?

Yes, that’s where he got his apprenticeship. That’s where he learnt his trade, Just-in-Time Manufacturing. That was Apple’s problem when Steve Jobs came back to the company, they had their own factories and they were terribly inefficient and they were sitting on millions and millions of dollars of parts and unsold computers, and they were terrible at forecasting. So, either they made too many, they had too much inventory, or they made too little and they couldn’t meet demand. Then Cook came in with this expertise and Just-in-Time Manufacturing, where they essentially built it on demand.

Right, which is fascinating to watch. I love talking about this with my husband. Like, you’d order an Apple phone and you could see it leave China and get on the ship. I think it’s unbelievable, in terms of their supply chain management. They are king when it comes to that.

Yes, its mind-boggling and the scale of it too, as well, and they sell like 200m iPhones a year, that’s just such a massive number.

So, will he, ultimately, be the best CEO at Apple?

Well, I think he’s shaping up to be and apart from Steve Jobs, he doesn’t have a lot of competition than from the previous five.

That’s true.

This is another thing that I discovered writing the book, which they hadn’t really talked about, which is that Cook has kind of been the CEO since about 2005. So, four or five years. Like when Jobs became sick and he was the interim CEO. He trusted Cook enough to hand over the reins to him and it freed him up to do the stuff that he liked to do.

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