Tim Cook begins to put his mark on Apple

Thu, Nov 3, 2011

Featured, News

Time and time again, Steve Jobs would turn to COO Tim Cook to assume temporary CEO duties when he was out on medical leave. Not surprisingly, Cook ascended to the CEO position at Apple following Jobs’ death, and given Apple’s share price following that announcement, Wall Street seems quite confident that Cook can continue leading Apple to even greater heights.

It’s been said many times, and indeed it’s true in many ways, that Steve Jobs created an Apple that can continue to thrive and innovate even in his absence. That notwithstanding, Tim Cook is not a clone of Steve Jobs. In fact, he couldn’t be more of a polar opposite to Jobs if he tried.

Whereas Jobs was a charmer capable of flying off the handle on a seconds notice, Cook is a reserved fellow who likes to operate behind the scenes and keep a low profile. And while both Jobs and Cook were on the same wavelength when it came to steering Apple, their leadership styles are markedly different and we’re perhaps beginning to see a growing number of examples that speak to that.

The Wall Street Journal on Monday posted an article focusing on the ways in which Cook is making Apple his own to the extent that he’s not blindly following in the footsteps of Steve Jobs.

In recent weeks, Mr. Cook has tended to administrative matters that never interested Mr. Jobs, such as promotions and corporate reporting structures, according to people familiar with the matter. The new chief executive, 50 years old, has also been more communicative with employees than his predecessor, sending a variety of company-wide emails that address Apple employees as “Team,” people close to the company said.

Now Jobs would typically address emails to Apple employees with “Team” so I’m not quite sure why that’s so notable, but the overarching theme here is sound; Apple is the same old Apple, albeit with a twist of Tim Cook.

One of Cook’s first orders of business upon assuming the CEO position came in early September when he emailed employees to announce a charitable matching program. Under the new program, Cook said that Apple will match, dollar for dollar, all employee contributions to non-profit organizations up to $10,000 annually.

Now it’s not as if Jobs was averse to charity, but as the WSJ notes, and as Jobs’ recent biography makes clear, Jobs was all about the products and didn’t spend much time dealing with other matters that he deemed to be of less importance.

Another change implemented by Cook involved restructuring Apple’s education division into two arms – a sales division and a marketing division.

For years, that business had operated fairly independently. Mr. Cook split the business into a sales arm and a marketing arm and incorporated the groups into their respective company-wide divisions, said this person.

The move streamlined Apple’s structure and increased the responsibilities of senior vice president of world-wide product marketing Phil Schiller and John Brandon, a vice president who oversees many of Apple’s sales channels and has worked closely with Mr. Cook for years, this person said. Apple’s education head John Couch, who had reported to Mr. Cook, now reports to Mr. Schiller.

One of the more interesting changes that might come about with Cook at the helm involves what Apple might do with its $80+ billion in cash. Apple, under Jobs, wasn’t exactly keen on issuing dividends or engaging in stock buybacks. Rather, Jobs explained that Apple liked to keep a lot of cash on hand as to remain nimble in the face of intriguing acquisition opportunities.

And while we don’t expect Apple to do an about-face anytime soon, Cook did note during Apple’s most recent earnings conference call that he wasn’t blindly tied to the notion of holding cash for no other sake than its own. At the same time, don’t expect Apple to blindly issue a dividend or buy back shares just because vocal shareholders are clamoring for it.

Tim Cook recently assumed the reigns of one of the most valuable and innovative company’s in the history of time. Following Steve Jobs is no small feat, but one sure fire way to ensure disaster would be for Cook to try and conjure up the thought processes of Jobs and simply do what he believes Jobs might have done.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem like something Apple has to worry about.┬áLast week you might remember that Al Gore explained how Steve Jobs made a point of ensuring that Apple wouldn’t be plagued by “What would Steve Jobs Do?” syndrome upon his departure.

In the end, Cook is an Apple veteran and the company continues to fire on all cylinders. As far as we can tell, Cook putting his own take on how Apple should be run is a healthy sign and should instill confidence in investors and Apple fans alike.

via WSJ



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