Steve Jobs | SXSW | Tim Cook | Web/Tech

SXSW: Has Apple's CEO Tim Cook Let Steve Jobs' Dream Die?

Steve_cook

Yukari Iwatani Kane — author of Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs — just held a SXSW Interactive discussion in which she discussed whether Apple's vision died with Steve Jobs.

Sxsw_2014_bugKane covered Apple from fall of 2008 (right around the time that Jobs’ dramatic weight loss fueled public speculation about his demise) all the way to the end of Jobs' life, during the iPad launch and the controversy over iPhone 4’s antenna problems.  Apple did not help Kane with her book (apart from letting her attend one meeting). However, she interviewed nearly 200 company insiders, experts and business partners to reach her conclusions and also owns an Apple computer, iPhone and iPad.

In short, her talk suggested that Apple’s current CEO Tim Cook lacks Jobs’ celebrity marketing savvy and inflexible managerial style. As a result, while Cook has maintained that Apple has not changed, his statement rings hollow considering some of company’s cultural changes and product stumbles after Jobs' passing.

Keep reading AFTER THE JUMP...

Here's three big stand-out changes since Jobs' death that, according to Kane, reveal how Cook differs significantly from his predecessor:

Samuel_jackson_siri1) APPLE RELEASED AN INCOMPLETE PRODUCT - In 2011, Apple unveiled Siri as the centerpiece of their new iPhone 4S. In commercials, Apple showed the voice-commanded digital personal assistant aiding celebrities like Zooey Deschanel and Samuel L. Jackson with things like setting reminders, locating nearby food vendors and playing music. The problem: the actual product couldn’t answer some of these same questions.

Never before had Apple released a beta product still in development. It’s true that a voice-recognition software as sophisticated as Siri needs lots of user input to improve, Apple had set up expectations very high with its commercials and previous projects and failed to meet them with Siri.  Siri’s designers and marketers did not confirm that the ad’s questions would actually work in real-life, “the kind of mistake" Kane says, "that Steve Jobs would not have made."

She also admits though that Siri was a project in development before Jobs died, so its execution did not occur entirely under Cook’s reign.

Apple_maps2) APPLE FIRED SOMEONE FOR A FAILED PRODUCT - Apple’s iPhone 5 included a notoriously defective version of Apple Maps which encouraged drivers to drive over airport runways and off of famous world bridges.

After he refused to apologize for the failure, Apple more or less forced Scott Forstall — the company’s senior vice president of software who oversaw Apple Maps development — to resign. Forstall reportedly had a big ego and was disliked by other company executives, but many think that Jobs would never have let such an experienced executive go and would have kept Forstall’s ego in check while forestalling Maps’ failed launch until it performed optimally.

3) THE END OF SKEUOMORPHISM - Shortly after Forstall’s departure, Apple’s new iOS began to openly reject skeuomorphism, the design philosophy that all of the company’s application icons should closely resemble their real-world counterparts (such as a green felt poker table for their Game Center icon or a wooden bookshelf for their eReading and text subscription software). The open rejection of the company’s long held design aesthetic struck Kane as possibly insecure or a way to pile on top of Forstall who had helped keep the aesthetic in place for so long.

Something Kane also mentioned in passing is that the mobile computing marketplace has  changed dramatically since the transfer from Jobs to Cook. When Jobs unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, “the idea was the phone was your digital hub on the go,” says Kane. Now that idea has found itself expressed in many mobile  devices, leaving Apple in a much more competitive world.

Also Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix are all competing for market dominance when it comes to offering movies, music and user connectivity. According to Kane, the founders and visionaries behind those companies can take huge risks that a hired manager like Cook just can’t.

When Jobs used to unveil new products, Kane says, Apple employees and users alike felt like they had taken part in a world-changing event — a world that Jobs had manifested into being (though he obviously didn't do it alone). In contrast, she says that Tim has yet to convey a new vision forward with the company — something she thinks it will need to do in order to continue its impressive record of successful innovation.

She also adds that Cook’s delegation style of management  makes other executives (rather than himself) wholly responsible for product successes or failures, and that this approach has fostered more recent stumbles and a growing sense that Apple is directionlessness. 

Feed This post's comment feed

Comments

  1. These are good points. I sort of think that regardless of who was in the big chair, these outcome of these things probably wouldn't have changed all that much. Siri was probably in the works, and I think needed to come out when it did. It was such a popular product before Apple acquired it that taking it off and leaving it off the shelf for too long would have been bad. Maybe the maps thing is true, but from the rumors the read about how other employees felt about Forstall, he wouldn't have lasted too much longer at the company anyway.

    (Disclaimer, I'm an Apple fanboy and I'm writing this on my Mac as I talk on my iPhone. My iPad is also sitting next to me. haha, so I'm maybe a little bit afraid to see Apple's rein go anywhere anytime soon.)

    Posted by: Eric | Mar 11, 2014 7:06:15 PM


  2. I'm not an Apple fanboi but am, shall we say, close to Apple, and find some of these points to be either uniformed or factually incorrect. It's a matter of public record that when he saw his demise coming, Jobs advised Cook *not* to ask himself "What would Steve do?" when problem-solving and strategizing, as this would hinder the company's progress. Such was his confidence in Cook and the company. The incessant comparison of Cook to Jobs in the tech media ignores both this wise advice and the fact that, honestly, nobody can quite "replace" Jobs. Kane's use of the word "haunted" is a bit ghoulish and indicates a mindset stuck in the cult of celebrity as opposed to considering the fact (and it is a fact) that *Apple's "vision thing" is changing.* This will be more evident in coming years if it's not already.

    The contention that Apple had never before released a product in so-called beta is subjective and easily dismissed by citing examples of uncertain product lines during the Amelio and Sculley years. The assertion that Siri was incomplete in its original release is also contestable. Apple openly admitted that the feature wasn't perfect and would be improved upon in future iterations.

    The Apple Maps fiasco was indeed that, although the subsequent improvements to the app and the updated version of Google Maps as an optional map took care of the problem in relatively short order. People harp on this overmuch while failing to acknowledge the fixes.

    The "end of skeuomorphism" was a good thing, regardless of what peculiar quibbles some may have about Ive's redesign of iOS. Decades after the introduction of accessible personal computers, the concept was sorely outdated and frankly sort of condescending to discerning users. Design bloat, if you will. This was hardly the first time that the company let someone go due to mission failure or interpersonal conflict.

    Bless the memory of Jobs for his accomplishments, but to hold Apple to his standards incessantly reeks of conceptual stagnation. It's weird in my opinion and unrealistic in a rapidly changing Tech environment.

    Apple under Cook is going to be a different sort of company. It already is. That's how it goes. Whether or not the company succeeds remains to be seen, but these particular criticisms are quite petty as such.

    Posted by: The Other One | Mar 11, 2014 7:26:44 PM


  3. Where's the book on how Microsoft went to crap after Bill Gates retired? (crickets)

    Hindsight is 20/20 and it is very easy to cull facts from the past to support your present thesis.

    Posted by: qj201 | Mar 11, 2014 7:35:51 PM


  4. Many of the problematic products released after Jobs' death were helmed by Jobs himself. The fault lies with the dead man and some of those speak to the many mistakes Jobs made in his lifetime--mostly hubris (that for some reason are no longer spoken of: his dislike to create an App environment for the iPhone, the Mac Cube, the Anniversary Mac, etc...)

    Posted by: unruly | Mar 11, 2014 7:52:57 PM


  5. I think people forget some of the early Apple products that failed when Jobs was the head.

    Posted by: john patrick | Mar 11, 2014 8:34:05 PM


  6. The end of skeuomorphism? Seriously? She's just grasping at straws. It can look good, but it can also look bad - and some of Apple's implementations were bad. That's why Apple's departure from skeuomorphism is actually quite popular.

    Posted by: Eugene | Mar 11, 2014 8:41:20 PM


  7. The simple truth is that all digital consumer companies develop products that are sometimes good and work and sometimes ones that are bad and don't work. None are home run hitters every time at at bat. When they come out with a bad one, their stock goes down and then the media gets all feverish and starts pointing fingers. This stuff has been happening since the late 80s, nothing new here other than perhaps the obvious hindsight.

    Posted by: johnny | Mar 11, 2014 9:45:52 PM


  8. I really don't think there would be any significant differences in Apple if Steve was still alive.

    Posted by: JMC | Mar 11, 2014 9:47:37 PM


  9. I have a new macbook Air 13 inch, and a five year old Macbook pro and an iMac. My major complaint is that I find it impossible to believe that it never occurred to Apple to craft the cookie manager so that you can "remove all" while protecting the cookies you don't want to dump. You have to go through the list and manually remove each cookie you don't want. Because they have not done this, I have to assume that Apple is in cahoots with tracking cookies. And that's f'd up.

    I purposely have a Samsung Galaxy phone rather than an iPhone. Not only was the Samsung more advanced at the time I chose it, but it has a replaceable battery. I replaced the battery after three years for the outrageous price of less than $15 delivered to my house. To replace the battery in your iPhone, I think you have to take it in or mail it in. Also, the Galaxy has proven itself to be more functional and more durable. The only advantage the iPhone might have is if it can sync with iTunes on the computer or the Airport Time Capsule.

    I adore my macbook air, even though it can't accept or burn CD's. When I get a new truck (Toyota naturally) it probably won't even have a CD player anymore.

    Posted by: enchantra | Mar 11, 2014 10:16:09 PM


  10. The article is pretty much nonsense, and misses the point: every company is different after the loss or retirement of a charismatic founder. The ones that will be remembered in 50-100 years are those that can survive that transition. Personally, I think Tim Cook is handling it well.

    Posted by: Andrew | Mar 11, 2014 10:26:15 PM


  11. Johnny is spot on. However, he should have added that when a company comes out with a string of misses or is very slow to adapt changing markets [see: Blackberry] that is should raise several flags.

    IMHO, Microsoft is in much more dire straits than Apple.

    Posted by: Steve | Mar 11, 2014 11:00:12 PM


  12. That #2 is a good thing (going by the description provided). Jerks are not that important to your company. Let them be someone else's jerk. The failure here was "firing" the jerk AFTER the product launch. It should have happened MUCH earlier.

    As for Jobs, frankly I'm glad he's been replaced by a human being. Now if Apple can finally get over itself, I might actually consider purchasing an Apple product for the first time. Not likely, but possible.

    Posted by: Randy | Mar 11, 2014 11:11:58 PM


  13. Wait...what, "The Other One"? To hold Apple to Jobs' platinum standards of perfection "reeks of conceptual stagnation"?! How do yu figure THAT? Quest for innovation, evolution and stagnation = stagnation? If you say so....

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Mar 12, 2014 1:20:58 AM


  14. Steve Jobs was an utter fool.

    He decided that natural remedies and diet were going to cure his pancreatic cancer and by the time he finally decided on proper medical treatment it was too late.

    His cancer was caught at the early stages so his choice was utterly moronic.

    Posted by: MaryM | Mar 12, 2014 5:21:58 AM


  15. Look, Steve Jobs was a terrible person. He had seems like sociopathic tendencies: seemingly didn't care about the horrific treatment of Chinese workers; treated American staff shabbily; conspired to cheat American workers out of higher wages; abandoned his own daughter; etc, etc.

    Please stop this fawning over Jobs. He didn't design the iPhone. Jony Ives did.

    He wasn't a saint. Get over the PR spin.

    Posted by: Hansel | Mar 12, 2014 7:30:42 AM


  16. Mary, aside from being callous, you are ill informed. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly onerous one and early detection does not change that. Its survival rate is usually measured in months with 20% odds of survival for a year from detection and far less than 10% survive five years. Jobs survived 7. Could he have survived longer with a more aggressive treatment? Possibly, but perhaps the quality of life during that additional time would not have made it worth it.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Mar 12, 2014 7:39:21 AM


  17. The corporate culture usually does change when a new CEO assumes the role.

    Posted by: Jack M | Mar 12, 2014 7:49:21 AM


  18. I recently bought a new laptop and was seriously considering switching back to Apple, which I'd used in the past for design and animation. Cost was a concern but not the overriding one.

    While there's no doubt that Apple products are sleek and attractive, tend to be easy to use and intuitive, I seriously dislike their centralized, rather control-freaky (IMO) approach to what apps and software one is *allowed* to use, subject to their approval. By having everything go through iTunes Apple is perceived as approving of the software or app, making it vulnerable to political or policy-driven protests and removal of the software. Also, when a new version of an app becomes available they make it near impossible to locate and download older versions, rendering older hardware obsolete sooner than it needs to be.

    I find it rather ironic that the company which so effectively captured the public's attention with the iconic "1984" ad is now the closest thing to Big Brother when it comes to personal computers and their use.

    Then there's the cost. How much of that expense is driven by the objective superiority of their hardware and how much by the ephemeral cultural cache ("coolness"factor) of their brand? Is it any different from a clothing label that is suddenly "in"? Another reason Apple hardware's initial cost is more of a concern is they make it difficult, if not impossible, to add more memory later by not adding slots for memory cards.

    Considering my almost fanboish dedication to Apple when I was doing design work, I have come to seriously dislike their company philosophy vis a vis their users.

    Posted by: Caliban | Mar 12, 2014 8:57:35 AM


  19. Kenneth - Steve Jobs delayed aggressive cancer treatment by at least 6 months while he tried to treat it with diet and natural remedies.

    That is sheer stupidity.

    Plus his treatment of Chinese worker was appalling.

    Steve Jobs was a monster and a moron.

    Posted by: MaryM | Mar 12, 2014 9:06:48 AM


  20. SJ's cancer was caught early only because he had a full body scan done during a routine checkup. This is normally not done and the medical community was horrified to hear that it had taken place. At that point he could have have a major surgery call the Whipple procedure, which removes a lot of internal organ bits and dramatically crimps quality of life. Steve refused. So he ended up needing the procedure later anyway when it was too late.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 12, 2014 10:58:25 AM


  21. Yes Mary, clearly a moron, just ask anyone who uses an Apple product or has gotten rich off of investing in Apple. I'm sure you'll have great difficulty finding either, since he was such a moron! Whatever! You chose your medical response to a fatal diagnosis and let others chose their own. Yes, fatal. Regardless of treatment options, there is no likelihood that you will survive pancreatic cancer. The options are how long does one delay the inevitable and at what cost (physically and financially.) I'm sure Microsoft treats their Chinese factory workers much better. Oops, neither company actually own the factories, often the same ones, where the components of their products are made. Get real, your mindless and callous generalizations make you sound like the monster and the moron. However, since I don't actually know you personally, you know kinda like you probably didn't know Jobs, I'll give you the benefit of doubt. Cheers, here's hoping you never have to face the same health decision, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Mar 12, 2014 1:17:15 PM


  22. Yes Mary, clearly a moron, just ask anyone who uses an Apple product or has gotten rich off of investing in Apple. I'm sure you'll have great difficulty finding either, since he was such a moron! Whatever! You chose your medical response to a fatal diagnosis and let others chose their own. Yes, fatal. Regardless of treatment options, there is no likelihood that you will survive pancreatic cancer. The options are how long does one delay the inevitable and at what cost (physically and financially.) I'm sure Microsoft treats their Chinese factory workers much better. Oops, neither company actually own the factories, often the same ones, where the components of their products are made. Get real, your mindless and callous generalizations make you sound like the monster and the moron. However, since I don't actually know you personally, you know kinda like you probably didn't know Jobs, I'll give you the benefit of doubt. Cheers, here's hoping you never have to face the same health decision, I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Mar 12, 2014 1:17:16 PM


  23. Oops, choose in both cases above, not chose. Unless, of course, you've already chosen.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Mar 12, 2014 1:19:52 PM


  24. Oops, choose in both cases above, not chose. Unless, of course, you've already chosen.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Mar 12, 2014 1:19:53 PM


  25. By all means, find fault when profits are at risk. Nevermind that Jobs' had thousands of young people in sweat shops in China.

    Posted by: Rodney Wollam | Mar 12, 2014 4:01:39 PM


  26. 1 2 »

Post a comment







Trending


« «Towleroad Guide to the Tube #1536« «