Yukari Kane’s new book about Apple post-Steve Jobs, Haunted Empire, is still a few weeks away, but it’s already beginning to pick up press coverage.
A recent video interview with Kane for the Wall Street Journal sheds a bit of light on her research methods as she describes her efforts to find out more about Tim Cook.
Referring to Apple’s CEO as “still an enigma to me,” Kane describes visiting Cook’s hometown and speaking with friends and former teachers to try and find out more about Apple’s soft-spoken CEO.
Interestingly she notes that, despite often being described as born in Robertsdale, Alabama (as can be seen on Cook’s Wikipedia page), her research suggests that Cook’s family actually moved down from Pensacola, Florida when Cook was young — throwing his place of birth into question.
When it comes to discovering what motivates Cook, however, Kane acknowledges that, “If you [ask me] what makes him tick, I still don’t know.”
The interview also sees her discuss the challenges of being an Apple supplier: stating that, where previously Apple’s business growth made up for its tough demands, as sales have flattened, suppliers are less willing to “break their backs working for diminished reward.”
At the end of the interview, Kane is asked whether Apple has lost its touch, to which she responds:
“You know, I think the answer is obvious to me. You know, the answer has got to be yes. This is a company who revolved around Steve Jobs for so long, that was something that Jobs himself went out of his way to make sure of. And the people [at Apple] are conditioned to operate, to play off of his strengths and weaknesses, and so now you’ve got a completely opposite guy in Tim Cook, who is, I think, brilliant in many ways, but in different ways. And so they’re going through some growing pains from that.
But also what I’m really pointing out is just that Apple is just as mortal as every other company. Any company or business will go through a transition whenever their visionary founder dies. And there are a lot of challenges that you commonly face: motivation, innovation, especially if you’re as successful as Apple. How do you keep people motivated when everyone’s achieved success, or when you’ve changed the world several times over? What’s the next reward that will keep people wanting to work for them? So, anything could still happen.”
While it will be interesting to see what details Kane has been able to unearth about Apple and Tim Cook, the interview does nothing to counter early criticisms that the book may be founded on a false premise: the all-too-familiar Apple failure narrative. Kane’s comments about Apple’s challenges as a company are not wrong in pointing out that a) Tim Cook is different to Steve Jobs and that b) companies built around iconic founders tend to go through a period of restructuring after their departure — but this is not the same as claiming that Apple has lost its touch.