“There has never been a professional transition at the CEO level in Apple.” Jobs told Cook, the latter recently recounted for Bloomberg. “Our company has done a lot of great things, but has never done this one. The last guy is always fired, and then somebody new comes… I want there to be a professional CEO transition, and I have decided, and I am recommending to the board that you be the CEO, and I’m going to be the chairman.”
A few short months after that pivotal meeting, Jobs was gone—an iconic spirit wiped out by the throes of pancreatic cancer—and it was up to Cook to lead Apple into the next era. Ever the revolutionary, Jobs had stuck by the company’s motto, “Think Different,” to the end, and left Cook with unusual advice.
“I never want you to ask what I would have done,” Cook remembers Jobs saying. “Just do what’s right.”
Nearly 14 months after Jobs’ passing, Cook is finally stepping out of his predecessor’s shadow.
“He’s the kinder, gentler Apple,” Carl Howe, a longtime Apple analyst for market advisory firm International Data Corp. told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a big, multinational corporation. I think Tim has done a better job of recognizing that. Jobs could remember when it was just three guys in a garage. When you get to be one of the largest companies in the world, you need a different skill set.”
Under Cooks’ direction, Apple has expedited its new product introduction, rolling out a new iPad, the iPad Mini, the iPhone 5 and an upgraded iPod in the past few months. Still, Cook’s rush to launch has met controversy, as the Apple Maps app was largely considered a flop and even Cook issued a public apology for the product’s failures.
Cook also broke with Jobs’ tradition in his decision to bring some of Apple’s manufacturing back to the United States. Moving manufacturing of an existing Mac line stateside is a move Jobs once told President Obama would never happen. Cook revealed last week his intent to invest $100 million in the project, and his motivations reflect a new social responsibility for the company.
“I do feel we have a responsibility to create jobs,” Cook told Bloomberg. “I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job, but I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs. I think we have a responsibility to give back to the communities, to pick ways that we can do that.”
In fact, in many of his actions as CEO, Cook has made the tech-darling Jobs seem like a downright miser. He addressed the issue of Apple’s poor working conditions in its Chinese supplier factories, and started a matching-funds giving campaign that has so-far donated $50 million to Stanford hospitals. Cook has also rewarded long-time investors with special dividends, and he saw the company’s stock increase 77 percent at one point, although it has fallen in recent months.
Cook’s softer side isn’t the only difference between him and Jobs, however. Silicon Valley investor Marc Andressen noted a stark contrast between Cook and Jobs when speaking at New York City’s Quartz event Dec. 12: Market share.
“The Apple playbook under Steve Jobs was a single playbook,” said Andressen. “He would invent a new product category, start with 100 percent market share, and then every day that goes by, lose market share until some terminal outcome.”
For example, in the cases of the Mac, iPhone, iPad and the iPod, Apple owned a large portion of the market when the product launched, but over time that market share shrunk as other companies introduced similar products. Instead of focusing on market share, Jobs concentrated on margins and the “pricing umbrella,” achieved by selling high-end products to a sub-set of consumers who were willing to pay a premium.
Cook, on the other hand, is more focused on market share, and is willing to directly engage competitors such as Google and Samsung to hold on to as many users as possible.
“In the long run in these markets, if you’re not the majority market share, you don’t have the majority of the apps,” said Andreessen.
Jobs never concerned himself with such menial matters because his creative genius was confident that as his products lost market share he could simply launch the next big thing in technology and capture an entirely new market. A former Apple employee sees that as Cook’s major weakness. Although Cook may be a good businessman, David Sobatta, who spent 20 years with Apple’s federal sales division, recently called Cook a technology “lightweight” in an interview with ReadWright.
“I never felt passion for technology from Tim like I did from Steve and some of the great engineers,” Sobatta said.
“There’s a difference between loving technology,” Sobotta told Business Insider. “and being enamored with technology.
“If we saw Steve Jobs come into a briefing, he couldn’t talk about anything else, other than the thing he was working on” said Sobotta. “He came into an enterprise sales briefing, and at the time he was working on iMovie. So, we’d be talking about home movies in the enterprise briefing.”
Will Cook be the new Jobs? Most definitely not. But that’s how Jobs wanted it.
“I want to make this clear,” Jobs told Cook in that all-important 2011 meeting that will most certainly go down in history. “I saw what happened when Walt Disney passed away. People looked around, and they kept asking what Walt would have done. The business was paralyzed, and people just sat around in meetings and talked about what Walt would have done.”
It’s Apple, after all. Think Different.