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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tim Cook and his first 5 years at Apple.

Tim Cook today completes 5 years of his tenure as the CEO of the most valuable company in the world. When he was handed over the post of the CEO by the board on suggestion of Steve Jobs, Tim Cook believed that Steve Jobs would remain as a chairman of Apple for a long time with Tim Cook being the CEO as Steve Jobs several times bounced back from ill health in the past after a medical leave. But Steve passed away on 5th October less than 2 months after he resigned as the CEO.

According to Tim Cook here are two of various important advices he received from Steve Jobs:

1)”Never enter into product areas where Apple is not the creator of core technology.” If we think of Apple and it’s products, most of the time they are not the ones that come first but they make the best with integration of hardware, software and services. To do this they need to be in the centre of the product and control the primary technology. Music players existed before iPod and phones existed before iPhone but once Apple entered, they were able to change the Music and Phone businesses completely.
2)”Never ask yourself - ‘What Steve would have done.’ Just do what’s right.” There was a reason why Steve said this to Tim. When Steve was the board member at Disney, after the death of Walt Disney, the execs would always discuss – “What Disney would have done?” and this question always used to fill void in the room and the thinking that went into making decisions once this question was asked became cluttered and unauthentic. According to Tim Cook, this one single advice cleared a huge weight off his chest and helped him think better.

Tim Cook is criticised several times for not being able to make Apple enter into new product areas. This statement is invalid because innovations happen when the technology is ready and the consumers have a problem that this technology could answer. Even when Steve Jobs was at helm it took 6 years to launch iPhone after the iPod was launched. 

While Apple’s incremental gadgets are doing quite well – iPhones, iPads and Macbooks – Apple watch, only new category of device that was launched under Tim’s leadership is yet to prove its potential as a device consumers can’t live without. 

All the technology perspectives aside, Tim Cook brought some elements into Apple that his  charismatic predecessor couldn’t (or didn't care). One of them is transparency and being more open towards critical issues. When the factories at China are facing a problem with lot of workers committing suicides, Tim visited China and made sure that there are some changes in the process that made the workplace more comfortable and less punishing. And the efforts of Apple on environment are legendary! Apple by 2017 will run on 100% renewable energy and its efforts on recycling are setting benchmarks in the industry! And Tim Cook even presented himself in front of the attorney on Tax evasion claims and debated passionately on the need for changes in taxation policies. 

Tim is a very private person, yet he openly declared himself as gay, and the reason that he stated was – “If foregoing my privacy in this one issue can help people come out of the depression, make them think that being gay is not wrong and make them believe that they too can achieve great heights, I’d happily help!” This statement sums up what he is and what he stands for.

Everything didn't go his way though. There were some instances when he was under immense pressure. There was Apple Maps issue where it was very un-Apple to introduce a product before it was ready and Tim Cook candidly admitted the failure. The biggest crisis he faced (if we could point out at one) is when FBI asked Apple to unlock iPhone of a terrorist. (San Bernardino incident) The way Apple reacted to this got lot of admiration from the industry and triggered a debate on an important topic – Privacy and Security. Wozniak (Co-founder of Apple) said "I very much admire Tim Cook for standing up for the privacy of individuals because my whole life, Apple has meant to me a question of who is more important, the human or the technology." Who is more important human or the technology?

With iPhone growth slowing down and critics’ rant at Apple for not being able to come up with a disruptive innovation, I would say, Tim Cook shouldn’t be judged on his last 5 years but on his next 5 years because innovation takes time to produce and his hints at Apple Car and VR look exciting!

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DoT as a whole.

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