Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died more than six years ago. His hand-picked successor has reigned supreme at Apple since. As expected, we inveterate Apple watchers have seen criticisms come and go. What hath CEO Tim Cook wrought?
Everyone who tracks such things probably has their own scorecard, so I’ll give you a glimpse of mine. AAPL is up. That’s right, Apple’s stock is flirting with a $1-trillion market cap and made many investors rich. Again. And even richer thanks to dividends and stock buybacks. Yet, I see two major issues that don’t get much consideration.
Products And Security
As an engineer, Cook is something of a numbers guy and it’s difficult to gather much of an argument against Apple’s numbers since Steve Jobs passed away in 2011. Mac and iPhone sell at record levels, and while iPad is down, any PC maker would love to swap out their own revenue, margin, and profit numbers with Apple’s tablet.
The company’s stock price has reached stratospheric levels. Again. Revenue and profits are what competitors dream of and have nightmares over (the former for achievement, and the latter which helps to diminish their own anemic efforts). Stock buybacks and dividends make investors happy. The company’s fastest growing division is Services which is even more profitable than hardware.
Sounds good, right?
Through all those successes Apple’s two newest products are both hits, but not exactly catching the world on fire the way iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad did during Jobs’ reign. Apple Watch may own the smartwatch category and AirPods remain backordered but with a 98-percent customer satisfaction rating, yet both are nothing more than iPhone accessories; completely dependent upon the product that Jobs launched a decade ago. Since then, Apple’s product line is mostly iterative improvements, and devoid of market disruption.
Sounds bad, right?
Despite those obvious product related issues, it’s wise to note that Cook is not a product guy the same way Jobs was. He’s an operations guy. And that ability to pay attention to operations and some of its political ramifications has helped Apple’s one billion or so customers to remain free of the clutches of over-zealous government officials. For example, Tim Cook stood up to the F.B.I. and government officials and did not help authorities break into an iPhone used by a terrorist. Cook in effect said, “No back door access for the iOS.”
Authorities howled. Then-candidate Donald Trump railed against Apple. But saner minds prevailed– for now– and look what back door access hath wrought.
A tool created by the U.S. government’s NSA fell into the wrong hands and now a few hundred thousand Windows PCs have been exploited and rendered useless unless a ransom was paid to the hackers.
Cook in 2016 on providing back door access:
If we knew a way to do this without exposing hundreds of millions of other people’s issues we would obviously do it. We need to stand tall and stand tall on principle. There’s probably more information about you on your phone than there is in your house… they’re also loaded with the location of our kids in many cases, and so it’s not just about privacy but it’s also about public safety.
In light of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack promulgated upon Windows PC customers from a freed government backdoor hack, what do you think of Tim Cook now?
Sure, I’d like Apple to have more products and lower prices, but I’m not complaining about the stock price and I sleep a little better at night thanks to Cook’s stance on official requests from authorities to undermine customer security. It’s a minefield out there, and not just here in the U.S. Cook has to deal with misled officials in Europe, China, and elsewhere and so far, Apple’s customers come out as winners. Thanks to Tim Cook.