Today marks the first anniversary of Tim Cook as CEO of the world’s biggest company, but what has really changed under the soft-spoken, shy-seeming Alabaman?
Virtually everything. Tim Cook has given Apple what Steve Jobs never could: a conscience.
In one short year, Cook has changed everything from the way Apple treats its retail employees to the Foxconn workers building their products on the assembly line in Shenzhen; from Apple’s approach to charity to the way investors are rewarded.
But Cook’s no pussywillow. Over the last year, he has not only continued but actually escalated Apple’s “thermonuclear war” against IP copycats like Samsung, while kicking so-called “frenemies” like Google to the curb, virtually exiling the search giant from the core of iOS in retaliation for daring to launch their own competing mobile OS, Android.
Tim Cook has given Apple a conscience, but he’s no pussywillow.
Through all of this, Cook has not forgotten what makes Apple great: its products. Apple’s two best-selling products ever — the iPhone 4S and new iPad — were launched under Cook’s watch, along with OS X Mountain Lion, the best-selling version of the Mac operating system to date. Apple has also released bold new products under Cook, like the Retina MacBook Pro, and is preparing to launch more: a 4-inch sixth-generation iPhone and 7.85-inch iPad mini. The result has been Apple’s best financial year yet.
Yet it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Apple has seen something of a brain drain under Cook, and some of his new hires have been widely criticized for foolish snafus. There have also been embarassments for Apple under Cook, such as Siri’s tortuous beta and the widely-mocked “Apple Genius” ad campaign.
To mark Tim Cook’s first year as Apple CEO, here’s a brief look at Tim Cook’s accomplishments over the last twelve months.
Tim Cook and China
Tim Cook’s wizard-like mastery of the supply chain is what brought him to Apple and, outside of making great products, has arguably been the secret sauce to Cupertino’s juggernaut success over the last few years. Since Apple’s supply chain is mostly in Asia, it’s no surprise that Tim Cook has proven to be far more open, in touch and conscientious about Apple’s role in China than Steve Jobs ever was.
Under Cook, Apple is doing more for its supply chain workers than any other tech company.
The most obvious change in how Apple does business in China is the way the company has responded to allegations of inhumane working conditions at its Foxconn factories. Following a daming report on worker rights abuses at Foxconn, Tim Cook did something Steve Jobs never would have done: talk openly about the problem, join the Fair Labor Association and commit to fixing the problem, not just with independent audits of its factories overseas but by handing out raises to workers across the board.
It seems to be working. The Fair Labor Association has reported improved working conditions at Apple’s Foxconn factories, and while there are still improvements to be made, Apple’s openness and decisive moves to finally fix the problem have been cheering to behold.
Under Cook, Apple can now believably say that it is doing more for the well-being and treatment of its assembly line and supply chain workers than any other major tech company.
Steve Jobs was known for his fierceness, so when he told Walter Isaacson that he intended on going “thermonuclear” against Google and its Android partners, you knew he meant business. Tim Cook, on the other hand, has always come across as shyer and softer than Jobs, leading to questions when he took over as CEO: would he have the mettle to wage the holy war Steve Jobs wanted?
A year later, the answer to that question is an obvious ‘yes.’ Apple’s out for blood and on the warpath against anyone it believes has ripped off its ideas.
Apple’s most notable foe in 2012 has been Samsung, the South Korean electronics maker who is, at the same time, Cupertino’s biggest manufacturing partner and Infinite Loop’s biggest competitor in the smartphone and tablet space. Even as the two companies have continued to work together in manufacturing, Apple has been trying to rip the pulsating heart out of Samsung’s mobile business, accusing the company of shamelessly copying its intellectual property and smartphone designs in almost every conceivable particular. The protracted battle between the two tech giants has most notably been conducted here in America in what is being described as the patent trial of the century.
Under Cook, Apple’s out for blood, trying to rip the pulsating heart out of Samsung and cripple Google’s revenue stream in iOS.
But Cook hasn’t just gone after Samsung: in 2012, under Cook’s leadership, Apple has taken strategic aim at Google in retaliation for the search giant’s Android affront. Suing Google the same way Apple has taken Samsung to court is difficult for many reasons, in particular because Google essentially gives Android away and only makes money on the platform indirectly. Cupertino, then, has worked to exact vengaence against Google in a subtler way: by systematically destroying Google’s ability to make money off of iOS.
With iOS 6, Apple will eliminate both YouTube and Google Maps as core services of its mobile operating system; likewise, Apple’s intelligent voice assistant Siri has partnered with everyone except Google to provide answers and results.
At first blush, this might seem like a tame response compared to the $2+ billion Apple is trying to wring from Samsung, but Google actually makes four times as much money off of iOS than it does on Android. By ripping Google’s plumbing out of iOS, Apple is going right for the search giant’s throat.
Time will tell exactly how bloody Apple’s warpath will be before Tim Cook is through, but one thing’s for sure: under Cook’s leadership, Apple has sent a strong message to any one daring to steal its ideas. $%&! with us and get $%&!ed.