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Tim Cook's Apple is the Apple we need

Dan Moren | June 29, 2015
Since Tim Cook took the reins in Cupertino, almost four years ago, a gradual but inexorable change has taken place. And, speaking as a longtime follower of the company, there was to me no greater indication of that than this past week's kerfuffle over artist royalty payments, and the eventual policy reversal from the company. Let us count the ways in which this whole to-do reflects the changing face of the company.

"Tim Cook may not be the next Steve Jobs, but his job isn't "New Steve Jobs," it's "chief executive officer": He's there to keep the company running smoothly, so that the thousands of Apple employees can concentrate on making great products. He's there to do what he's good at and run the business, just like Jonathan Ive is there to do what he's good at and design great hardware."

That doesn't mean that Cook doesn't command attention himself, just that he knows when to step back from the limelight. Instead, he's taken a page from Jobs's playbook and spoke up about the matters that are important to him personally: things like equality, diversity, and health.

The more I consider it, the more I've begun to think that even were Jobs still around, Cook might still be the better choice for CEO in this day and age. Can you imagine Jobs being as receptive as Cook was to calls for improved diversity at Apple? Or embracing social media? Or posing for selfies? Yeah, me neither. That Jobs was a genius at what he did is difficult to deny, and there's no doubt that he could be charismatic when he felt like it, but in a time when concerns often revolve around issues like transparency and responsiveness, it's hard not to think that his secretive and often waspish shtick might begin to wear thin. Meanwhile, Cook's more relaxed grip and good-natured charm go a long way towards softening the company's image--even as it continues to do business with ruthless efficiency.

In that same piece of four years ago, I was bullish about the future of an Apple under Cook:

"What I'm excited about is what comes next. Apple under Tim Cook will undeniably look a lot like Apple under Steve Jobs, at least for the foreseeable future. But at some point, it will change."

Make no mistake: That process of change is far from over. The Apple of today is still clearly recognizable as the house that Jobs built, but it's now become just as obvious that it's a house that Cook has put a lot of energy into renovating.

 

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