What Tim Cook's Been Up To
Here are some of the things that Tim Cook has been working on in the last couple of years.
- Maintaining remarkable continuity in the ranks of Apple executives. Jonny Ive, Peter Oppenheimer, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, and Bruce Sewell have all remained in their jobs (Mr. Oppenheimer will retire at the end of fiscal 2014). The three new additions to Apple's leadership—Craig Federighi, Dan Riccio, and Jeff Williams—are all Apple veterans.
Tim Cook's ability to keep all of these talented people who came to Apple in part to work with Steve Jobs says something remarkable about Tim Cook. That consistent leadership has allowed Apple's less bright critics to ignore this accomplishment.
- Running Apple and Apple Retail. For the last year and a half, Apple hasn't had a senior vice president or C-Suite executive in charge of retail. That means that Mr. Cook has ultimately been running retail in addition to all of the other responsibilities that go along with running the world's most profitable company.
Some might point Mr. Cook hiring John Browett in the first place as a big mistake. It was, but to me, swiftly terminating Mr. Browett and waiting until he found what I think and hope will be the right person—Angela Ahrendts—to replace him more than outweighs that initial mistake. More importantly, though, Mr. Cook's ability to handle retail in the interim says yet another remarkable thing about him.
- Ensuring that Steve Jobs's business values are instilled in Apple's culture. Steve Jobs told Walter Isaacson that he worked hard in the last few years of his life to make sure that it continued and thrived without him. The man he chose to carry that banner after his death was Tim Cook.
That goes a long way with me, but it seems clear that Tim Cook has made this a priority, and I have argued in the past that he's the only person who could have done this most-critical piece of leading Apple in the post-Jobs era.
- Overseeing massive expansion of Apple's manufacturing capability and bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. Apple is making the Mac Pro in Austin, Texas, and the company has invested in an enormous manufacturing facility in Arizona that will make a new product that will in turn spawn a new ecosystem.
This is huge. HUGE. But Apple has been doing even more, investing in new oversight and management of its Asian supply chain, creating and managing new environmental programs in that supply chain, and increasing its monitoring and compliance for its Supplier Code of Conduct.
Apple as a whole and Tim Cook in particular gets no credit for these things.
- Shepherding new product development and refusing to release a new product before it was ready. We all know Apple is working on new products, particularly something in wearables (the so-called iWatch), and some kind of expanded TV-related product.
I think that many lesser people would have rushed out one of these new products just to prove to the world that they didn't need Steve Jobs. Many executives would have crumbled in the face of all of the absurd criticism hurled Mr. Cook's way.
Instead, Tim Cook has done the harder thing. He has clearly said "No" to a lot of things, something Steve Jobs lectured about repeatedly, and he has waited to release these new products until they are ready. Just like Steve Jobs would have done. Does he get credit? No, he gets criticized by people who have done little or nothing themselves.
These are significant and amazing achievements, and Tim Cook gets credit for none of it, especially from mainstream pundits.
Next: 2014 Will Be The Year of Tim Cook