A piece at Seeking Alpha attributed to Standard Investment Company Inc. makes the argument that Tim Cook needs to be replaced as CEO of Apple. The argument is fairly simple: Tim Cook is “identical to Steve Ballmer” and should be replaced.
The piece is making the rounds in the blogosphere, and I was specifically asked what I thought about it. So here’s the short version: it’s balderdash—Tim Cook is no Steve Ballmer.
Here are the bullet points offered in the piece:
- Under Tim Cook, Apple became the most valuable, most profitable, and most well-known company in the world.
- But Tim Cook simply inherited the success created by Steve Jobs, who left him with the iPhone, iPad, iMac, and the whole Apple ecosystem.
- Assessment of the new products and projects unveiled under Tim Cook reflects a lack of vision and innovation required by a successful tech company CEO.
- Tim Cook in many ways is identical to Steve Ballmer, and for the same reasons should be replaced.
Tim Cook is No Steve Ballmer
My point here is not to say that Mr. Cook is perfect. For instance, I’ve been screaming at the top of my lungs that Apple no longer ships new products and that it’s ridiculous. There were 14 products that shipped in all of 2016. It’s only gotten worse since then. In the last 8 months, Apple has shipped 3 new products: AirPods, a (RED) iPhone, and the inexpensive iPad.
The fact is there is a huge difference between Tim Cook and Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer was obsessed with protecting the Windows/Office hegemony and sacrificed everything remotely new and interesting to protect those two cash cows. It’s classic marketing/bean counter management, something that Steve Jobs railed against more than once.
Tim Cook isn’t sacrificing the new and interesting. His shortcoming as a CEO is in losing focus on legacy products, not propping them up. He has huge teams working on augmented reality, a car, and potentially life-changing health initiatives. Under his tenure, Apple is reshaping one of its most successful products ever, its fleet of Apple Stores. The company is also doing incredible things with energy, robotics, and manufacturing. And these are just the things we know about.
Tim Cook is the anti-Steve Ballmer.
Tim Cook Has Vision
Now, you might not like Mr. Cook’s focus on these future-generation products and technologies. You might hate Apple’s efforts in green energy. Maybe you’re cranky (like me) that Apple can’t iterate Macs, iPads, AirPort, or displays. You might be angry that Apple hasn’t shown iWork and iLife much love, or that the Final Cut Pro X transition was a mess.
But even if you are, you can’t blame it on Mr. Cook being “identical” to Mr. Ballmer. Steve Ballmer is a marketer with no product vision. He’s a sales guy, and the living embodiment of Steve Jobs’s warning about putting sales guys in charge of product companies.
The video below is just one of the instances when Mr. Jobs spoke about this.
Tim Cook is an operations guy, not a sales guy. He has a vision of Apple being much, much more than it is today. If you want to fire him for that, make your case, but don’t besmirch his name by comparing him to Steve Ballmer.