Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was said to have that ‘vision thing‘ and, indeed, he predicted a number of technology changes well in advance. He saw the value in the mouse, graphic screen and menus, and point and click that even Xerox’s many talented engineers did not. Jobs seemed to have an ability to cobble together components of the present to create products of the future. The question I ask is simple.
Where Is Apple’s Vision?
Jobs hired now CEO Tim Cook to run Apple’s operations because Cook was, well, an operations guy; an experienced executive with an uncanny ability to manage operations and a complex supply chain with efficiency. Jobs trust Cook so much he made sure he became CEO even before he died.
If Jobs had vision, and few would argue that he did not, then what of Tim Cook? Does Apple’s current CEO share that ‘vision thing?‘ Cook talks about Apple’s wonderful product pipeline, but when he talks products, is he talking new iterations of products from the past, or new products that change the future?
It seems to me that for a visionary, the product pipeline would be those products that become the future. A new MacBook Pro is an iterative product, not a product destined to remake markets.
That leads me to Tim Cook’s track record of new products vs. Steve Jobs’ track record. They are not the same.
Jobs influence brought about the original Apple computers (heavily dependent upon co-founder Steve Wozniak, of course), the Mac, the iPod, iTunes and the iTunes Music Store, the iPhone, the iPad, each a major disruption in their respective product categories. There’s a lasting legacy there.
What hath Cook wrought? The current product line has received the standard iterative improvements, but the only new products are two accessories for iPhone– Watch and AirPods.
If Cook has a vision of where technology will go in the future it isn’t something he has bothered to share with the tech industry or technology customers. Instead, his management of Apple has driven the company to greater riches– revenue, profits, and stock price– but not to products that disrupt marketplaces.
The jury remains out with Watch, of course. It’s an accessory that cannot standalone without iPhone. Watches have been in usage decline for a few decades, and though I love my Watch and it has altered how I use fashion accessories, it may need a few years to become anything that resembles the impact of iPhone upon modern technology.
Tim Cook seems to have assembled a team of executives in his own mold as opposed to a diverse team that includes those who can see parts of the future in technology and command the power to make the products happen accordingly. Jobs could do that and he had both personal and position power to drive changes to technology when the timing was right.
I don’t see that ‘vision thing‘ in Tim Cook and maybe it’s even gone from Apple.