It wasn’t long after Apple, Inc. CEO, Tim Cook, took over for the late Steve Jobs and the tech media was howling for his head. August 24, 2014 will mark Tim Cook’s third year as CEO at Apple, and today boos and jeers have all but disappeared. The "Down with Tim!" cries have been replaced with praise being piled onto the CEO.
The tech media and analysts piling onto Cook can be attributed to many motivations. Self notoriety, loathing of Apple, or simply being too quick to judge Tim Cook's meekness, perceiving it as weakness rather than an emerging strength. UBS has been the latest firm to give Cook thumbs up for his leadership, but the analysts are firmly motivated by Apple’s stock price and little more. There are many ways to inflate one’s stock, and Cook’s patient style goes well beyond a few gimmicks to boost short-term investment. Cook’s leadership is is proving out to be the near perfect successor to Steve Jobs, pulling Apple in subtle directions Jobs would never have ventured.
The purchase of Beats Electronics is something that Jobs would never have approved. Jobs dipped his foot into the accessory market with the iPod Hi-Fi, quickly relinquishing the speaker market to BOSE, iHome and dozens more. For Cook to make such a bold move, purchasing such a strong brand in Beats, shows he is in touch with his audience and understands the importance of Apple to continually be linked with hip and cool – and amazingly fat margins.
Beats acquisition was a big deal for Cook, as he was able to flex his leadership muscles, but he has made subtle moves that may prove far more important. Steve Jobs and Steve Senegal, Costco's then CEO, got along like oil and water. Today we see Apple and Costco happily re-engaged, with every store having Apple product boldly showcased at the entrance of each warehouse, and perhaps most shockingly, at discounts Jobs would never have allowed.
With Jobs once bashing cheap, 7" iPad knock-offs, would an iPad mini have ever seen the light of day under his leadership? Or would Scott Forstall and his love for skeuomorphism design language been given the boot in favor of Jonathan Ive's iOS 7 and is forthcoming vision for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite? Would Apple have ever in a million years partnered with IBM, dealing a major blow to Microsoft, while continuing to whittle down Android’s market share world-wide with an ever widening selection of iPhones and iPads? Would Jobs have ever offered an Apple non-profit donation match of $10,000 a year per employee? Cook has made subtle yet substantial expansion of Apple's offerings and softened the company's corporate culture in a way that can only be described as smart when compared to past decisions, or a lack thereof.
Steve Jobs was often blinded by tunnel vision, proving both a blessing and a curse for Apple. But it's Jobs blind spots that are allowing Tim Cook to be the prefect Steve Jobs successor. His balanced, yet disciplined approach to leadership has given Apple a broader brush, benefiting developers and customers alike, and this Fall is going to showcase his leadership in ways no one thought possible following in the footsteps of Steve Jobs.
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