THE TRUTH ABOUT APPLE: Steve Jobs Left Tim Cook Quite A Few Problems

THE TRUTH ABOUT APPLE: Steve Jobs Left Tim Cook Quite A Few Problems


MAY 3, 2014, 9:32 AM

A lot of people — myself included — have been critical of Tim Cook as CEO of Apple. 

My main criticism for Cook is that Apple’s sales growth has slumped to low single digits. During this period of extreme sales growth deceleration, Cook has done very little to diversify Apple’s product line. He has essentially kept the same line of products at the same price in place.

Other people have been much harsher. They say Apple is doomed without Steve Jobs. They say it will not be an innovative force in technology anymore, and that it will be lapped by Google, Amazon, Samsung, Facebook, and whoever else.

The most critical judge of Cook may be Yukari Iwatani Kane, who wrote a whole book on the subject called, “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs.”

Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Brad Stone reviewed Kane’s book for The New York Times. Generally, he’s not that impressed by it. He calls it “a well-reported but premature evaluation of the post-Jobs era.”

In Stone’s review, he actually provides a deeper insight into Apple than Kane’s entire book. It’s an insight that we haven’t seen written anywhere else, but it does a better job of explaining Tim Cook’s Apple than perhaps anyone else has thus far. Here’s Stone:

In fact, “Haunted Empire” reminds one of just how many problems Apple’s co-founder handed off to his successor. It was Jobs, furious at his putative allies at Google, who steered Apple into its endless patent battle with Samsung over Android. And it was Jobs, aiming to dethrone Jeff Bezos as the king of digital books, who clumsily herded book publishers into a pricing scheme that attracted the attention of the Justice Department, and which a judge later found to be unlawful. In a sense, Cook is still cleaning up messes left by the man whom the world roundly crowned, in a period of understandable mourning, as an unparalleled business genius.

Many people thought of Apple as a hot rod ripping down the road. All Cook had to do was take the wheel and keep things going.

And Jobs most certainly left behind a great company with great people in great shape.

But it’s not as simple as just keeping the car pointed in the right direction. Jobs’ death left a massive vacuum at Apple. Every major decision ran through Jobs. Cook was not the same sort of visionary leader who was going to make a call on every product detail.

With Jobs gone, the visionary role needed to be filled. Jony Ive, who led hardware product design was jockeying with Scott Forstall, who led software product design for that slot. Ultimately, Cook had to choose. He went with Ive, and the ramifications of that selection are still being sorted out today at Apple.

Choosing Ive over Forstall represented a cultural shift for Apple. Jobs fostered a competitive, even adversarial, environment for executives at Apple. Cook wanted to create a more collaborative environment.

While he was refashioning Apple in his own vision, the technology industry didn’t hit pause. It continued to charge ahead.

Now, however, Apple has its top executives in line, it’s close to completing an overhaul of its software, and it should be ready to go for the next five years.

The next 12 months at Apple will give us a truer sense of Tim Cook’s Apple.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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