Delayed Apple products more common under Tim Cook

By

Tim Cook still hid a few surprises up his sleeve for the iPhone X event.
Tim Cook is widely hailed as an operations genius.
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook may be considered an operations genius, but during his stint as Apple CEO product delays have increased substantially compared to Apple under Steve Jobs.

That’s according to a new report, which points out that there have been delays with the launch of several major new products launched by Cook as CEO. Meanwhile, the average length of time between Apple announcing a new product and shipping it stands at 23 days over the past six years, compared to 11 days’ average for the six years previous.

As the Wall Street Journal writes:

“Longer lead times between announcement and product release have the potential to hurt Apple on multiple fronts. Delays give rivals time to react, something the company tried to prevent in the past by keeping lead times short, analysts and former Apple employees said. They can stoke customer disappointment and have cost Apple sales.

Production issues contributed to the company largely missing the important Christmas shopping season with its two newest products, AirPods and HomePods. When the $349 HomePod was unveiled in June, Apple touted its superior sound and said it would be ready in December. Then it announced in November that shipment would be delayed until this year, causing it to lose out on a gift-giving season when such smart speakers were big sellers. Apple hasn’t yet given a new arrival estimate.”

Elsewhere in the report, the authors observe that both Cook and Jobs have now personally overseen the launch of around 70-plus new and updated products during their stints as CEO. During Jobs’ reign, only one product was delayed by more than three months, while seven took between 1-3 months to ship after the initial announcement. Under Cook, meanwhile, five have had a delay in announcement and shipping of three months or more, and nine have had delayed of between 1-3 months.

The report makes for some interesting reading, but it’s important to note that the comparison isn’t exactly apples and, well, Apples. The quantity of products that Apple is shipping today dwarfs what Apple did under Steve Jobs. Revenue has more than doubled. Apple is operating in more markets than ever. In years during which Jobs ran Apple throughout, the iPhone never sold more than 40 million units. During 2015, Cook’s best year for iPhone sales, Apple sold 231 million iPhone units.

Delays are never ideal, but the mistakes Apple has made that stick in people’s minds are rarely product delays, so much as issues that have to do with hitting a yearly upgrade cycle, allowing potential problems to be overlooked. Apple has never missed a launch date for the iPhone, its most important product, and managed to beat just about every expectation to get the iPhone into people’s hands. (Whether this is due to lack of demand or just increased efficiency is something we’ll find out in early February.)

Do you think delays are a fair criticism of Tim Cook’s tenure as Apple CEO? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.