Tim Cook Has The Know-How But Steve Jobs Had The Know-Why

On June 13, 2014, John Gruber posted his epic, “Only Apple.” In part of his article, Gruber focused specifically on the changes occurring at Apple under new CEO, Tim Cook.

Jobs was a great CEO for leading Apple to become big. But Cook is a great CEO for leading Apple now that it is big, to allow the company to take advantage of its size and success. Matt Drance said it, and so will I: What we saw last week at WWDC 2014 would not have happened under Steve Jobs.

New Apple didn’t need a reset. New Apple needed to grow up. To stop behaving like an insular underdog on the margins and start acting like the industry leader and cultural force it so clearly has become. ~ John Gruber

These words were received with near unanimous approval by the Apple community. But is Gruber’s sentiment accurate? Does Apple really need to “grow up” and become more mature? Whatever happened to Steve Jobs’s famous admonition that one should:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish”? ((Stewart [Brand] and his team put out several issues of the Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. . . . On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath were the words, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” ~ Steve Jobs))

Is Tim Cook The Better CEO?

When Cook succeeded Jobs, the question we all asked was more or less binary: Would Apple decline without Steve Jobs? What seems to have gone largely unconsidered is whether Apple would thrive with Cook at the helm, achieving things the company wasn’t able to do under the leadership of the autocratic and mercurial Jobs.” ~ John Gruber

There’s not a doubt in my mind that Tim Cook is a better CEO than Steve Jobs ever was. I thought so from day one. But is that the right question? Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves instead whether or not Tim Cook is a leader and whether he can lead Apple forward without Apple losing that rare mixture of genius and madness that made Apple so very unique?

The Price Of Efficiency

It has long been axiomatic that Apple is not the sort of company that could walk and chew gum at the same time. In 2007, they issued a (very Steve Jobs-sounding) press release that stated Mac OS X Leopard would be delayed five months because the iPhone consumed too many resources:

However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned.

Or consider the October 2010 “Back to the Mac” event, the entire point of which was to announce features and apps for the Mac that had started life on iOS years earlier. ~ John Gruber

Apple has always generated stories like this. It’s long been a given that Apple is understaffed — that Apple had only one guy doing project X and when he got pulled to work on project Y, project X foundered and ground to a halt. Such delays drove us all crazy as understaffed Apple let things — important things — linger, sometimes near death.

But did you ever ask yourself why this was? It’s not like Apple was under resourced. They’ve got more money than god. And it’s not like Steve Jobs was a head-in-the-clouds CEO who didn’t recognize the need to acquire additional talent. So why? Why?

Throughout the years in business, I found something. I always ask why you do things. The answers you invariably get is, “That’s just the way it’s done.” Nobody knows why they do what they do. Nobody thinks about things very deeply in business, that’s what I found. ~ Steve Jobs

Being inefficient was one of the many prices Apple paid for having Steve Jobs as its CEO. Jobs notoriously didn’t tolerate “B” players on his team. He felt they infected the company and soon led to the proliferation of “C” players as well. Jobs wanted only “A” players and he was willing to have Apple be understaffed rather than to fill vacancies with anything less that what he deemed to be the best.

[pullquote]Some enjoy comforting the the afflicted. Steve Jobs enjoyed afflicting the comfortable.[/pullquote]

So you put the B team on this one, did you? ~ Steve Jobs

The result? Superb products that were always running on the edge, always running late; always in danger of not coming out in a timely fashion or in any fashion at all.

This is a very uncomfortable way to run a company. It’s a very inefficient way to run a company. But it also proved to be a very effective way to run a company.

Is Apple running smoother now? Undoubtably. But is that necessarily the good thing everyone seems to think it is? Perhaps not.

Apple Wants To Be The Developer’s Friend

John Gruber writes:

(Apple has) begun to act more magnanimously. They’ve given third-party developers more of what we have been asking for than ever before, including things we never thought they’d do. Panic’s Cabel Sasser tweeted:

My 2¢: for the past few years it’s felt like Apple’s only goal was to put us in our place. Now it feels like they might want to be friends.

It’s ironic (to me, at least) that John Gruber used the above tweet as an example of how well Apple is doing when, in my article entitled “Whither Apple or Wither Apple?“, I used that very same tweet as a cautionary tale. My take from that article:

You know who needs a friend, Cabel? End users, that’s who. Because when developers become more important than end users you get — Microsoft. Putting developers “in their place” — which is, to say, placed behind end users — is exactly what Apple should be doing.

Does the above mean that I want Apple to not have a good relationship with their developers? Not at all. I just don’t want that increased friendliness come at the cost of losing focus on the end user. Because if that focus is lost, Apple is lost as well.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

Undoubtably, Tim Cook is making the machine that is Apple run more efficiently. But efficiency is getting the trains to run on time. Effectiveness is getting the trains to the right stations. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going, unless you’re going in the right direction.

My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. ~ Steve Jobs

Sure, what we do has to make commercial sense, but it’s never the starting point. We start with the product and the user experience. ~ Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs’s “North Star” was making a great product that provided the end user with a great experience. But what is Tim Cook’s guiding principle?

What is Apple’s mission? To make the very best products in the world that really deeply enrich people’s lives. ~ Tim Cook

Identical in word. That’s good. But identical in deed? That’s the hard part.

Creativity Is Fragile

I’ve found that the most creative people are confident about one thing: their doubts in themselves. ~ johnmaeda (@johnmaeda)

At the memorial service given on the Apple campus following Steve Jobs’ death, Jony Ive had this to say:

[pullquote]Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say “wow,” and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas. ~ Steve Jobs[/pullquote]

Steve used to say to me (and he used to say this a lot), “Hey Jony, here’s a dopey idea.” And sometimes they were — really dopey. Sometimes they were truly dreadful.

But sometimes they took the air from the room, and they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas. Or quiet, simple ones which, in their subtlety, their detail, they were utterly profound.


As I re-watched the video and re-read the transcript of Ive’s speech, I was re-reminded of the fact that creativity lives on the edge.

[pullquote]This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. ~ @jessicaolien[/pullquote]

Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. ~ William Plomer

Creativity is dopey thinking — right up until the moment when it suddenly becomes brilliant. It’s unimaginable thinking — right up until the moment that it suddenly becomes the only solution imaginable. It’s uncomfortable thinking, it’s dangerous thinking, it’s lonely, isolated thinking — right up until the moment when it’s embraced by all.

Artists often work within the uncomfortable space that precedes “Aha!” or “Oh, I get it!” ~ johnmaeda (@johnmaeda)

People listened to to the crazy, creative ideas of Steve Jobs because Steve Jobs was Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs was the CEO. And sometimes even that wasn’t enough. Sometimes, they STILL didn’t listen to Steve Jobs and they fired Steve Jobs, even from the company he had helped to found.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one. ~ E. B. White

Now that Steve Jobs is gone, who is there at Apple to promulgate, and to promote and — most of all — to protect fragile new ideas?

The best CEOs try to make their companies a safe place for those with wild ideas, and a wild place for those with safe ideas. ~ Dr. Mardy


Worldly wisdom teaches that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally. ~ John Maynard Keynes

know how knowledge or education concept with button on computer keyboard

The thing that bound us together at Apple was the ability to make things that were going to change the world. ~ Steve Jobs

[pullquote]The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order. ~ Alfred North Whitehead[/pullquote]

Despite all my questioning and kvetching, I do believe that Tim Cook is — as Steve Jobs was — bound to Apple by his desire to make things that are going to change the world. And I believe that Tim Cook is just crazy enough to give the crazy people the run of the company. ((Updated language courtesy of Michael Glotzer @Mglo))

But I don’t know that for sure. It’s far, far too early to make that call.

Now don’t get me wrong. Based on all the available evidence, the verdict is clear — Cook and Apple are on the right track.

But that’s exactly the problem. There’s mounds of evidence in existence that we are not privy to. And there will be mountains more evidence produced over the next couple of years. So any verdict reached today will be terribly, terribly premature.

[pullquote]Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. ~ Matsuo Basho[/pullquote]

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. ~ Steve Jobs

images-100It’s as if Steve Jobs was speaking to us — and particularly to Tim Cook — from beyond the grave. Tim Cook has to be his own man and do his own thing. We know he’s got the know-how to do the job. We’ll have to wait and see if he, and Apple, still retain the know-why.

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

420 thoughts on “Tim Cook Has The Know-How But Steve Jobs Had The Know-Why”

  1. I would love to see the parallel history from 2011 -2024, one where Jobs survives, and compare the Jobs/Cook Apple of the future. But unfortunately that can’t happen. IMO, they would be very different. I do think Jobs was a once/generation genius, while Cook is likely the best living person to lead Apple today.

    Under Cook Apple will still thrive. But it will thrive in a different way. In many ways it looks like Cook will give many what they have been asking for from Apple. Apple seems to have less struggles with NIH (not invented here) syndrome now. There appear to be more model proliferation on the horizon. More price cuts, more “openness”, More media friendliness.

    IOW more conventionality. There may even be a boom associated with in some gaps that were created by the Jobs kibosh on certain things.

    In the end I can’t help but see, more conventionality, leading to more conservatism, and less raw mad genius.

    For Certain, Apple has a much less entertaining CEO. I doubt we will see any more bold letters from the CEO, like when Jobs decried music DRM, and then eventually killed it, or when he did much the same for Adobe Flash on mobile.

    In many ways Jobs was an unreasonable man taking stands against things he didn’t believe in, and against prevailing “wisdom”. Cook OTOH appears to be a very reasonable man.

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one
    persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all
    progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -GB Shaw.

    Apple under reasonable CEO, might make more money, might last longer as a corporation at this point, but I would have enjoyed the ride more under an unreasonable CEO.

    1. A very thoughtful and nuanced comment, Defendor. Thank you for taking the time to share those thoughts.

    2. It is easier and more natural for an original FOUNDER of a world-famous Company (like Jobs or Gates), to be seen as THE quintessential essence or (cult?) personality of the Company itself, than it is for those who are hired on and then subsequently have to lead that FOUNDER’S Company. (I don’t think Jobs ever worked for another Company. And he was indeed seen as “Apple itself”, i.e. Jobs = Apple/Apple = Jobs) This “personality reverberation” is especially true of those rare Companies that grew up from a shoe-string startup to become the largest cap Company in the world. Thus the power and prestige vested in a FOUNDER does not as easily resonate for he who immediate follows. This would be especially true following a FOUNDER about whom two movies have been made, ground-breaking products have been recently produced, and memorial flowers are placed in front of his retail shops upon hearing the tragic news of his untimely passing. That is a reason Tim Cook has one of the most severely scrutinized jobs in business history. IMO he is doing a fantastic job considering the level of (hit-whore media) criticism from every quarter he must face every day (in addition to trying to keep the Company moving forward, ever achieving growing/glowing numbers). I must agree when you said, “Cook is the best living person to lead Apple today”. One of Steve Jobs’ more brilliant moves was setting up TC to be his hand-picked successor and have enough confidence in him, based on their decade of working together, to advise TC to “not do what you think I would do, but do what YOU think is best”.

      1. In general there is not that much difference in most FOUNDERS that couldn’t be duplicated by many other competent top level tech executives, if they stepped aside, or were pushed out (as indeed many are).

        Jobs OTOH was nearly unique. You can’t fill his role IMO. The company will go a different direction without him.

        1. This whole article can be boiled down into one word. VISION. Vision is that undefinable thing that sees the future. I have known visionaries who were too far out and could never lead the charge. Occasionally, a visionary person comes along that can lead the charge.

          I have known expert managers who knew how to run a company, but had no vision. If you are making bobby pins, that may be OK. If you are in a cutting edge field, it is death. Look at HP, Dell, Samsung. Even MS, after the early successes. As soon as the CEO becomes a marketing or finance guy, the vision disappears.

          I am watching Marcionne at Fiat/Chrysler to see if he qualifies.

          Jobs knew vision and execution were both keys in the computer field. Everything was new and rapidly changing. He put Cook in charge of the management part and Ives in charge of the vision part.

          1. I haven’t seen any evidence of split leadership. Tim Cook is in charge. Period. Ive is one of his many resources.

    3. Telling shareholders that if they don’t appreciate that Apple doesn’t do things only for profit, that they can sell their shares, doesn’t sound so reasonable.

  2. I’ve always viewed Steve Jobs as a great pragmatist. From the outside his ideas and achievements look like magic or madness, but they were the result of doing what works best, working from the problem back to the best solution, focusing on quality and simplicity, and of course understanding that design mattered and that design was how a thing works, not only how it looks. The execution is the hardest part of the process, and I think Apple under Cook and Ive (and others) will be fine on that front.

  3. Since we will likely be re-eulogizing Jobs, you may find it surprising that he had aspects I admired as well. He was someone with taste operating in a world that, had they invented sushi, they would have named it “cold dead fish”. I truly admired his rebel spirit, his “damn the topedos” approach.

    He was truly a great product manager, and perhaps the best salesman in the world. How else could he have the masses believing “magical” and “Apple invented everything”. We may not think about this, but the fashion industry is heavily entrenched in technology as well. They just don’t usually lead with it. Jobs had everyone believing that only Apple has the “marriage of technology with the liberal arts”. It’s been around for decades before Job’s garage. He was a pioneer in applying those principle in computers, but most certainly did not invent the marriage.

    He was also a self serving hypocrite. His obsession over control of every aspect of Apple devices, even post sale, is the antithesis of “Think Different!”.

    Apple was formed in Jobs’ image, and behaved, in unison, to Jobs’ whims, brilliance, and sheer arrogance.

    Since we like quotes here…

    “Tell me, what is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful?”, and he said, “Well, it intensifies your personality.” I said, “Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?” – Bill Crosby

    Cook is more pragmatic. Apple IMO has become more palatable under his reign. You’re right, he will make the trains run on time and optimize profit. The burden will be on the creative types to create new profit, and it will take many hires (as has happened) to replace one Jobs. Problem is, all those skills are in separate heads, that’s not the same synergy. Time will tell.

    What remains under either one is the intent of “world domination”. As a consumer that worries me, not because they aspire for it, but because they they may succeed.

    1. I disagree vehemently that Apple is intent on “world domination”. By their very actions, that they succeed at all goes against all traditional thinking. By being different (as to your comment about Jobs’ obsession, who else thinks like this?), they are already eschewing the path to “world domination”.


      1. Oh, I don’t know. There’s a lot thrown about regarding “winning”. Whatever that means. And on the contrary, Apples devices foster uniformity and conformity. So I don’t think I’m entirely off base.

        1. That’s the irony of Modernism. Read up on Bauhaus, International Style, and Frank Lloyd Wright. International Style was absolutely about uniformity/conformity. But Modernists like Wright let that uniformity allow for greater individualism, but one that was from the individual, not imposed by the architecture. Jobs and Ive are more like Wright than Gropius. but that Gropius’ philosophy did not heighten individualism is hard to deny when retrospecting design history.


          1. Thank you very much for the Bauhaus reference. Very interesting. I think you would agree that Rube Goldberg design has a certain appeal to it as well. Different strokes…

            If, however, I were to purchase a Bauhaus duplicate (to remove landmark restrictions) I would be able to modify it freely to all my poor tastes capabilities. As an owner, I have the right to be foolish, under the law, not Gropius’ opinion.

          2. I thought that is why you bought into Android, to get an Apple duplicate. 🙂


          3. I don’t entirely understand this idea that Apple somehow limits you in any way whatsoever. “Things” are provided to facilitate access for more novice users, sure. The curated App Store, the unified experience across devices, an ACTUAL dedication to user privacy (in that; Apple’s revenues don’t come from advertising like a certain other company) – these all exist to, yes, make it easier for the the rest of “them” to achieve what they want. Why should technology specificly gear itself towards the highly technical?

            With that said, I’m a software engineer and lifelong nerd. If there’s a tool *I* want or need bad enough; I’ll just write it. Or maybe find some nice, open source project, compile it and off we go. OR! I can edit that project to fit my needs. Apple does absolutely nothing to stop this. I’ve built my own hardware that interfaces with my MBA, my iPhone, my iPad, I’ve bought open source hardware for it. At no point in the last decade have I hit a wall and been like “Dang; I just can’t do that on my Mac, I guess.”

            If you want to jailbreak your iDevice – you can! If you wanna wipe OS X off your MBP and install Linux (or, if you’re some masochist – Windows) – you can! You can root your OS X and do whatever you want with it.

            Apple doesn’t “lock” you into anything – they simply provide a path of least resistance and you can choose to stay on it or not. MOST of the time, I choose to. Sometimes, though, I don’t.

            I’m sure Ford would tell you taking your Mustang off-roading is a bad idea and you probably shouldn’t do it and their warranty probably won’t cover what happens – but if you REALLY want to; go right ahead.

          4. To keep things clean, let’s put these in two camps. OSX and iOS.
            I agree OSX systems are less of an issue, but they have issues too. Where’s my Blu-Ray (as a paid option) for instance. Also, thankfully TB has been out a while, because immediately before there was zero support for fast external devices (fast meaning at internal speeds). There was no USB3 or eSATA. The fastest interface at that time was FW800 and USB2. This was when lesser systems at that time had USB3 ports.
            The move to complete non-upgradability (meaning without a soldering iron) is another issue. Having to upgrade at the time of purchase is not an upgrade. You bought it that way.
            Did we really need a thinner iMac? At what sacrifice? A 27” iMac costs $2000 for an i5. An i5!!!! I’m sure the experience wouldn’t have suffered at that price with an i7.
            Now to iOS. It’s restrictions are legend. They boil down to lack of end user control (supervisor access), limited hardware functionality (non-upgradable storage),
            You’re a developer. So let me ask you. Do you like being told what languages you can use and how you get to distribute your wares? Do you like that you have an annual developer’s fee that can be revoked? More importantly, do you see how someone else might object even if you don’t?
            The recent moves announced by Apple will make them even more insular. Being insular is a commitment by the user to them. It need not be that way. Tell me. Even now. If you bought 50 movies on iTunes over the years. Shouldn’t you be able to watch them on your Android if you somehow got hit over the head and wanted one? How about if you should choose to leave Apple? That’s lock in.

          5. You are just fighting the same old nerd battle while Apple gets better and better at serving regular people.

            I am a nerd myself and chose to buy an Samsung Tab Pro instead of an iPad for a lot of those reasons, but I recognize that for most people, the iPad is simpler,slicker, better working, etc…

            As we increase to even more devices in our personal ecosystems, Apple offering even better inter-working creates even more incentive by simplifying the multi-device experience.

            I can definitely see people paying a price/going Apple only, just to simplify their multi-device experience.

          6. “More importantly, do you see how someone else might object even if you don’t?”

            No, because there are _still choices_. There is no monopoly power play here. You know the choices available, I won’t rehash them. You are not being harmed by how Apple has chosen to build their products and business. No one is forcing you to use Apple products or services.

            Your overarching principle is built on hurt feelings, not rational thinking. Looks good on paper, but functionally and effectively moot. If what Apple offered was as terrible as you try to promote, they would not be in business, much less in business for as long and as successfully as they are. People (including many geeks and nerds, BTW) would not be as satisfied as they are.

            Really. Let it go. It is not worth your animosity. There are more important things out there worth your righteous indignation. This is not one of them.


        2. “Winning” doesn’t necessarily mean “world domination.” It could also mean “surviving.”

          I don’t agree that Apple’s devices foster uniformity and conformity. They are simply tools that are being used in many diverse ways. There is no censorship of the web. Apple only has a limited number of device models, but that has catalyzed a huge market of accessories to personalize it.

          1. They’re surviving pretty good! 🙂

            For uniformity, they’re all iDentical (pun intended).

            For conformity, it’s imposed. You and I even had a long dialogue about the ownership question. You are conforming to a lifestyle, whether you want to or not.

            Any one of those accessories can be disallowed by Apple, unless they conform.

        3. You only have to look at the App Store to see how Apple devices “foster uniformity and conformity”. Oh wait, my bad, it’s the exact opposite.

          It’s always a balance. Restricting music to discrete tones seems to reduce creative range, but discrete tones allowed musical instruments that were much easier to produce, approach, and master, thus leading to tremendous growth in creations and range of creativity. Tonal systems or styles can stagnate and calcify, but this then exposes the barriers that next rebels need to knock through.

          1. I really like that response. You shouldn’t need to rebel to use your devices without restrictions. As the owner, you have every right to make bad music, or to compose a piece with dog whistles that can only be properly heard from a 65 mph retreating car.

          2. You don’t need to rebel, you can buy another product. That’s what makes this great, choice! You don’t have to buy Apple! See? Problem solved! All your kvetching just makes you appear bitter, not enlightened.


          3. See what you’re saying? If you don’t want to conform, you can go somewhere else…

          4. That’s how a free market works. If I don’t like the way Ford designs a car, I buy GM. If I don’t like the way McDonald’s makes a burger, I can go Burger King or some Boutique Burger Joint down the road. Choice! I don’t want to conform to the mess that is Android and Windows. I don’t want to conform to _your_ requirements of imposed crap. I choose Apple.


          5. But there would be a rightful uproar if Ford or Chevy would tell you where you’re “allowed” to go. “Sorry, OnStar has detected that you are about to enter an unauthorized district. Re-routing.”

          6. Apple doesn’t tell you, either. Did you miss my comment that iPad is the #1 mobile device for porn sites? All without Apple App Store approval. How about that!


          7. That’s up to the site developer. If they don’t want my business, they can use Flash all they want. Sorry, klanahas, but this Flash mantra is tired and irrelevant. People have choice (except for Flash support on any mobile device since Adobe ditched it).


          8. The overarching principle is very relevant. It doesn’t go away just because Flash sucks.

          9. Your “principle” and analogy have no bearing, so they are irrelevant. No-one is telling you you can’t go somewhere. Apple is not dictating where you can can just as Ford and Chevy aren’t.

            What’s happening is that you are trying to go somewhere offroad that you shouldnt take your car. It is unreasonable of the restaurant proprietor to locate his restaurant at the end of a ten-mile rutted dirt road and wonder why few people bother visiting. If he doesn’t take care his driveway and doesn’t make it worthwhile to make the trip up it, then he will suffer.

            It is no use complaining that every car that Ford or Chevy makes should have four-wheel drive off-road capability. But that is the kind of complaint you make about iDevices.

            But more than that, it’s not just that Flash “sucks” on mobile. It is that it was never intended for websites in the first place. It was a stop gap, totale misused for the past 15 years and has now completely outlived any usefulness it ever had. I used it appropriately back in the day, some eighteen years ago, to create interactieve CD-Roms. There is no principle by which Apple should support it on desktop, let alone mobile, any more than Apple supports floppy disks or serial ports.

          10. Your argument is highly misleading. Let me make it very simple.
            Computers are not cars or trucks. Trucks can outperform cars in computerdom. If you must choose car analogies it’s mobile which is “off road”. But even as you present it, competing devices set the expectation. Traditional capabilities also play a role.

          11. Not so. Some products simply have different capabilities than other products. Some cars, like Land Rovers, can go “anywhere”. Some computers, like desktops, can do “anything”. You can’t expect one model to necessarily have the same capabilities as another.

          12. Competing devices run do Flash and many other things not allowed on iOS, and do not censor. Hence the expectation.
            Traditionally, no mass computer EVER dictated what you can and cannot run. What you can and cannot read.
            Those positive attributes you semi-sarcastically attribute to Android are true, there are negatives as well. Freedom is not a negative, and only freedom is needed to “Think Different!”.

          13. klahanas – I can’t believe your’ talking about Flash. Sheesh.

            You’re confusing options with choice. A company is allowed to provide any product they want. A consumer is allowed to choose between those products. That’s it. There is no right to force companies to give you choices that you desire. If you want something different, find a different seller or make it yourself.

          14. The real point was my second paragraph. I couldn’t give a damn about Flash, other than to have the freedom to see the content if Adobe chooses to offer a viewer.

          15. As many have said before, Apple, with its iOS devices, is offering consumers a different choice from Android. Android fits your definition of “mass computer”. Apple chose to fix the malware/virus app problem of the mass computer through sandboxing and a single signed App Store, and in so doing, no longer fits that definition. (BTW, how many “mass computers” have there been for you to generate that as the definition?) Regardless, iOS devices still offer the entirety of the web (minus Flash!).

            Apple also added other restrictions, many of which have been significantly relaxed since 2009, i.e., duplicating functionality. Despite these restrictions, Apple has developed the App Store into a thriving two-sided marketplace; vendors are eager to offer their 1.2 million+ apps there, and consumers are eager to shop and buy billions of those offerings. It’s like an well-run, safe, and diverse shopping mall.

            To users who are bothered by those restrictions, or who don’t trust Apple, you were/are free to choose Symbian, Blackberry, Android, Windows Phone, Tizen, etc, each having their own unique combination of restrictions, drawbacks, and benefits. We don’t need Apple to make its offering to be like the others — that would be conformity.

          16. But it is a mass computer. What it isn’t is a general purpose computer (defined as one where it can be freely programmed to solve all specific purpose problems in it’s class). I agree though that some concession in classification would need to be made.

            What Apple has done very successfully is to tune the system to their benefit and control, precisely because most it’s user’s don’t care or know about just how restricted it is. They have thus successfully insulated themselves from geeks that can point out their shortcomings.

            The point remains that entire publishers and written works have been banned due to Apple’s whims. A whole class of otherwise capable programs can’t run (java for instance). If freedom is conformity, it’s the broadest conformity, which is contradictory. Conformity is adherence to someone else’s rules.

          17. Don’t you realize that it is you that claim it to be a mass computer and that you are asking Apple to adhere to your rules for it?

            Most users know there are restrictions, since the concept originated with iTunes (on Mac and iPod). Some prefer the resulting benefits. Some trust Apple’s explanations and are willing to go along with it. Some don’t feel hampered by it. Some don’t care. Some are bothered much and thus have chosen other phones. After all, iPhone only has about 40% unit smartphone share in the US, and less than 20% globally.

          18. A computer produced on an assembly line by the hundreds of millions is a mass computer. It’s history that set my expectation of the rules. I repeat that iOS devices are the first mass produced computers to EVER forbid programs. Even though you could now count WinRT as having the same policies (just as wrong IMO) to my knowledge they never forbade anything yet.

          19. Apple doesn’t care that you categorize it as a mass computer. Almost all of its users don’t care either. Other “computers” such as game consoles/handhelds forbid programs, though they may not fit your “hundreds of millions” criteria (you don’t give a time period). (BTW, there’s actually very very few instances of “hundreds of millions” — Windows PCs, Macs (since 1984), iOS/ Android/ Symbian/ Blackberry smartphones/tablets.) Why does it really matter that it’s a mass computer? If one categorized it as a phone (since it is bought and activated like all phones historically have been bought and activated), then they’d be a whole different set of still irrelevant rules to adhere to.

            The main point is that around 90% of iOS users are very satisfied or satisfied with their experience using their freely-chosen iOS device and the App Store combination (and would plan to buy another one). And that there are multiple alternatives freely available for those who want to choose different experiences.

          20. -Game consoles aren’t general purpose computers either.

            -Apple makes hundreds of millions of iOS units a year.

            “And that there are multiple alternatives freely available for those who want to choose different experiences.”
            And debate and awareness of the pros/cons of each helps lead to informed decisions.

            Anyway, Apple really “lays it on thick”, should they not be countered?

          21. “And debate and awareness of the pros/cons of each helps lead to informed decisions”

            Except you aren’t debating pros and cons. You are debating right and wrong when there is simply nothing wrong with how Apple has constructed their ecosystem. You are just offended that they didn’t adhere to your rules about how computers, mass or otherwise, are supposed to function. You are also apparently offended that there are so many people who just don’t care about your rules.


          22. “Censorship is wrong. Sorry.” – klahanas

            This is an example of where you confuse and conflate definitions. Censorship only occurs by FORCE (usually by government). If a book store decides not to carry a book, that’s not censorship. If Apple or any other company decides not to carry a book or provide any feature, that’s not censorship. You’re free to buy your book or feature elsewhere.

          23. Dear Kirk. I’m quite aware that Apple has the right to choose what they sell in their store. I support that right. When it’s the ONLY store, it’s de facto censorship, and I respect you too much to pull a dictionary definition. It’s not just governments, it’s anyone of authority. The workplace for instance is always censored.

          24. “When it’s the ONLY store, it’s de facto censorship”

            When its the only store its a monopoly. Monopolies can almost never exist without government involvement. There is no monopoly here, so your point is moot.

          25. I didn’t say monopoly, you did. However, there is that point to be made. It’s an ecosystem level monopoly, that also leads to censorship.

          26. Sure, and I can only get Fords from Ford, and I can only get Pizza Hut pizza from Pizza Hut. Are you suggesting I can get a Ford from GM?


          27. But I can get gas, tires, air filers, wipers, entertainment systems, gps’s, etc., etc., etc from anywhere.

          28. But you can’t get Shell gas at a Texaco. I mean, how dare they? Doesn’t Texaco know they should let you buy Shell, too? And how dare Pizza Hut not also allow you to buy Domino’s Pizza there, too? Bloody monopolist censors!


          29. I also edited as you were responding….
            But I can choose Shell or Texaco on a Ford or a GM. I can alternate, heck, I can even go to Hess. Fortunately neither Ford or GM are in the gasoline business. They are in the parts business, and they don’t stop me from using after market parts.

          30. Oh, I see. It’s OK for Ford or GM or Texaco or Shell or Hess or Pizza Hut or Domino’s to tell you it’s their way or the highway, but not Apple. I see. Makes perfect sense.

            (BTW use of those aftermarket parts will void you warranty on any new car.)


          31. If my aftermarket tires void the warranty on my drivetrain, you bet I’ll be screaming bloody murder. I don’t expect the car manufacturer to warranty other people’s tires, I’ll go to where I got them. At least I have the option of getting tires from someone else.
            Pizza Hut presents their version of the product. They don’t tell me how to eat it, or whether I can add sauce, or cheese, or crushed pepper, or whatever AFTER I buy it.

          32. You can get screen guards and cases for your iOS device anywhere you want, too.

            Apple presents their version of the product. They don’t tell you how to eat it either.

            No monopoly, no censorship no matter how you try to spin it.


          33. It was not I that brought up monopoly, except after Falkirk brought it up, and then it was in the context of the ecosystem. They can easily request cease and desist on makers of cases. Total control, no matter how you spin it. They choose to allow something. When it suits them, they choose not to.

          34. He brought up monopoly because you can’t have censorship without some sort of massive governing control. And as I already pointed out there are other ways of getting your service on an iOS device and make money without going through the Apple App Store—web apps and HTML5 for instance. There wasn’t even an App Store when iPhone first came out. It was ALL through the browser then.

            To follow your mischaracterization, Every time Target or Walmart didn’t carry a product, they could be accused of censorship as opposed to, just like ANY business, choosing what it is they do and don’t want to sell. Total control. no matter how you spin it. They choose to allow something. When it suits them they choose not to. But you know what, that’s not censorship by any definition.

            And BTW, if a car company has reason to believe your unapproved after market tires (better read the manual to find out what tires they approve of, including proper inflation, which is not always the same as what is on the tire) caused a problem with the drive train, you better believe your warranty is void.


          35. As stated ad nauseum, Walmart, Target, Apple, whoever, have the right to carry whatever they desire. In real life, if Walmart doesn’t carry something I CAN go to Target or a small independent retailer. If I choose not to give any money to Walmart, I can. want to buy certain items, I can. In real life, I’m not married to Walmart. On iOS ALL Apps go through the App Store. Period. All Disney, all the time.

            “that’s not censorship by any definition”:

            It is censorship exactly by definition:
            One can also self censor, which is what these stores do, and is actually a protected right.

            App Store exclusivity makes iOS users subject to Apple’s self-censorship.
            BMW would have to prove the tires caused the drive train problem, a very unlikely scenario, but if proven, I agree with you. That would certainly be a rare and exceptional circumstance. Further, I would imagine BMW would not want it to be known that their drive train is so fragile and not robust.

          36. To sell Apps you go through the Apps store. But the App store is not the only option available to either the developer or the iOS user. Already illustrated. So your “total control” point is negated here.

            Selecting the products and services one wants to sell is in no way censorship, self or otherwise. Nothing is removed. The closest word is curated, though probably still not the most appropriate. And if you read the “censor” definition in totality (I know that is inconvenient for your point), you’ll find Mr. Kirk (the rehabilitating lawyer) is more right than you are as “official” and “government” is invoked several times to make the point clear. “Censorship” has a specific application.

            If someone wants to buy or sell those apps, there are other ecosystems they can participate in that does not require an iOS device. Choice.

            You have chosen at best a casual, metaphorical application of the word censorship because it suits your irrational agenda. Your application of the word does not hold up under scrutiny.

            Sorry you had to resort to caricature in an attempt to undermine my counterpoint regarding your “tires” argument. Doesn’t change the facts, though.


          37. “To sell Apps you go through the Apps store. But the App store is not the only option available to either the developer or the iOS user. Already illustrated. So your “total control” point is negated here.”

            Huh? Where else would you get iOS Apps officially?

            Curated requires removal (censorship), otherwise it’s meaningless.

            My interpretation of censorship is quite literal, not metaphorical. That’s the beauty of .facts, they don’t rely on credentials.

          38. Curated does not require removal, it is a selection process, not a removal process.

            I already pointed out that at the very least the porn industry is doing quite well on iOS devices without any Apple approval. Anyone can make a web app or code HTML5 to provide a service or product for an iOS device. You don’t _need_ to go through the App Store. Facebook only recently released an app for the iPad. I actually still prefer the website to the App on my iPad. Same with several retailers I purchase from regularly. Their websites are far more robust than their apps.

            If you want anything “Officially” you will ALWAYS have to adhere to the applicable “Official” rules. Anywhere, not just Apple.

            No, your interpretation of the definition of “censor” stopped way short of the full definition. The beauty of facts. You don’t get to make them up.


          39. “Selected” goes hand in hand with “not selected” (removal) otherwise curation is meaningless. And I don’t have a problem with curation, I have a problem when curated is the only option.
            Remember dial up AOL? That too was curated. But didn’t have an artificially imposed AOL only online environment. You could go to BBS’s. AOL, CompuServe, and switch freely between them.
            By Apps, I don’t mean the glorified websites, I mean native code. And still, those websites are censored because the means of achieving some of them are not allowed. As far as native Apps go there is ONLY the App Store. Either way, it’s as solid as “Banned in Boston”.
            The only “Official Rules” I recognize are those set by the owner of the device, and the law.

          40. “Not selected” does in no way equal or equate nor is even similar to “Removal”. Holy cow you are so twisted up by your irrationality to not even see this.

            Apple is operating within the law. So what’s the problem? (Rhetorical only. I do not expect a rational response.)


          41. On the other hand, it’s a nicer way to think about why I’m not playing hockey in the NHL, it’s because I was ‘removed’, not because I was ‘not selected’. Those NHL bastards! 🙂

          42. If something exists and is not selected for inclusion it is thus removed. What’s the problem? What else is it? I don’t think I can possibly be more rational. Sheesh!

          43. “It’s an ecosystem level monopoly”


            EVERY ECOSYSTEM IS A MONOPOLY. Google services is a monopoly. Windows is a monopoly. iOS and OS X is a monopoly.

            Using your definition of monopoly, every proprietary part made is a monopoly. Apple, Google, Microsoft can sell what they in in their own store just as K-Mart, Wallmart, Macy’s, Acme, Burburry’s and Tiffany’s can sell what they want in their own stores. THAT IS NOT A MONOPOLY.

            What you asking – and what you’re always axing – is to tell Apple what features it should provide and what goods it sells. You don’t have, neither should you have that power. That choice lies with the seller. Your choice — as the buyer — is whether to shop there or not.

          44. Do I really need to repeat that I don’t deny any one store the right to sell what they want? That I believe there should be other stores available as well.

            MS was affirmed a monopolist by the court. They had dominant market share. They also acted in an anti-competitive manner to gain business and to have unfair control over the ecosystem, in particular in Office Suites and with the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.

            I presume we can agree up to this point.

            When you say Macy’s, Walmart, K-Mart, Acme, Tiffany’s, etc. They are part of the collective that constitutes the market.

            I believe we can still agree.

            Your car doesn’t inhibit you from going to any of those stores. You can go to any of them, or all of them. Now imagine one of those stores also sells a car. It’s a premium car, Bentley class, but there’s a catch… it will only take you to it’s maker’s store. I would hate that, you would get that car. According to your arguments, it seems you would be okay with it. Not only do you advocate getting that car, you would vehemently defend it. This, of course, is your right just as it’s mine to point out that it’s not “all that”.

            Look at this from the OS level. Only iOS and WinRT dictate a singular store.
            The OS (the device) is like a car, a vehicle to get to the store.

            I assume that if MS did that, you would be against them, and I would agree with you. Do you mean to tell me that market share is the only reason this is okay?

          45. “It’s history that set my expectation of the rules. I repeat that iOS devices are the first mass produced computers to EVER forbid programs.”

            (Your interpretation of history notwithstanding, never mind that anyone is required to adhere to historical standards, and never mind that Apple has given you any reasonable expectation that history is something they wish to conform to, speaking of uniformity and conformity) So what? If that is important to people, then Apple is screwed, hoist with their own petard.


          46. Your fundamental point seems to be that Apple doesn’t cater to geeks therefore Apple is bad.

          47. If I were to spend my money again on Apple, I don’t want them all up in my business as a mandatory IT department. Perhaps others might feel the same way and avoid being bitter. Both of them! 😉

          48. If I were to buy Windows or Android or Linux, I don’t want to buy into mandatory IT.


          49. klahanas, you’re terribly confused. The job of a business is to create a customer, but that customer does not have to be you. If I sell woman’s underwear, I don’t cater to men. If I sell gourmet ice cream, I don’t cater to the masses. If I sell pornographic books, I don’t cater to puritans. If I sell farm equipment, I don’t have to cater to city folk.

            A business does not have to create a product that YOU like. They have to create a product that is liked by enough people that those people trade their hard earned dollars in order to acquire it.

            You have the choice of acquiring another product from another company but you reject it. Instead, you wish to impose your view of how a product should be upon Apple. To paraphrase Voltaire:

            Buy for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.

          50. I can’t argue with you from a business point of view, because you’re right. Point is, I don’t care about the business (the team), I care about computing (the sport). No confusion at all.

            Computers are intended to be versatile, otherwise they are appliances. They are also tools for the mind. When their inherent versatility is artificially restrained, censored, it’s akin to being told how to think. That’s offensive.

            These imposed “IT type” policies have also cast a shadow on what ownership means. Remember dial up AOL and Compuserve? Those too were curated, safe, but limited environments. The real stuff was on the BBS’s, but one did not in any way exclude the other, and you could go back and forth freely. Win/win.

            The free market is also very much about raising pro’s/con’s on any product, and that’s all I’m doing. But to paraphrase Voltaire “I will defend to the death your right to purchase an Apple product”. I think it’s you that’s confused, because I never denied anyone the right to do so, even though you likely used that as a figure of speech.

          51. “You shouldn’t need to rebel to use your devices without restrictions.” This triggers several thoughts.
            1. I don’t feel restricted when I have a wealth of choices
            2. Liberty is sometimes best served by some restrictions, ironically.
            3. “A little rebellion is good now and then” – Thomas Jefferson
            4. In my (admittedly limited) experience with Android devices, I was much more often restricted by the misbehavior of the device/skin, or fear of misbehavior of unrestricted apps.
            5. I have used many user interfaces and designed a handful. The freedom of design is exhilarating, though there are still technical restrictions (and more stomach-grindingly, business & corporate cultural restrictions). However, when design is done correctly (in my greatly humbled opinion) that freedom is overwhelmed by a fiduciary interest in the needs of the anticipated audience, rather than just my own. So using a UI designed by others for a multitude of users will never be as comfortable as using one designed by yourself for yourself. But the meaningful goal is using a general UI is easier than using your own,

          52. (Editor messed up, won’t let me add to or edit comment)

            … significantly easier than “Using your own UI, plus the effort to make it”

            (The editor bug has been around for years, and seems to occur only for longer posts, on iOS/Safari since that’s 99% of my use now)

          53. Each and every point you raised is valid to a very large degree.

            I often use the analogy that the chef should present their vision of the dish, that’s their job, but once bought, I own it and I decide whether to salt it. In computers, you can even remove the salt if you mess up.

            Should you take the trouble to learn your tools, your tools should not be getting in your way. I think that Apple has too rigidly sealed their devices to help grandma (and themselves) over the technically adept users. No filesystem access? No ability to add storage? And, of course, a singular store with “App Approval” whose rules are randomly interpreted, are unilateral, and that explicitly forbid “Duplicating Functionality”. How about “Improving Functionality”? You know, internal competition.

          54. Who is anyone to judge and decide what the owner of a device may want from a software pov? Except, of course, for the law.

    2. “He was also a self serving hypocrite. His obsession over control of every aspect of Apple devices, even post sale, is the antithesis of “Think Different!”.” ~ klahanas

      There’s no point talking to you when you say silly things like that. I think this quote sums it up:

      “The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see.” ~ Barry Neil Kaufman

      We’re never going to agree because we choose to see the world differently.

    3. You seem to completely not get it. Apple 100% do not want world domination. Jobs said this and now Cook has said this. Whilst analyst clamour for Apple to be like Google, MSF and Samsung and try to be all things to all men and all pervasive Apple have said that they will not. They will stay in their “quality” niche and leave the rest to others.

  4. Premature conclusion or not, this is a damn fine article, thank you.

    I think Apple has developed THE perfect trifecta for its business. A soul, represented by Jony. Execution by Cook, and ‘worldliness aware’, by the encouragement of team play that Cook has brought about.

  5. Is it philosophy versus strategy? Or strategy versus tactics? I don’t see Jobs as a philosophical sort of guy. He lived by hard-won truths, which is different and maybe even better. Persistence is better than brilliance in business. Jobs learned that in the wilderness.

    Pick a star and stay the course.

    Intellectually Jobs pursued a simple, clear, and powerful mission: Computers for the rest of us. Not the cheapest computers. Jobs’s mission was to get us the simplest, most usable, most effective computers. Computers that could be used, not used to confuse us. Used to create and educate. He was deeply a lib ed guy.

    More to the point, Apple 1.0 and his health broke Jobs’s heart. Here’s a bit of Melinda and Bill Gates: “… in the course of your lives, without any plan on your part, you’ll come to see suffering that will break your heart.” And the real news is that that is a good thing: Hearts broken are open. Jobs brought his broken openness back to Apple. That’s what was special about him: His embrace of the company and its future.

    Not his.

    Can Cook match Jobs’s persistence and depth? I think so. Too soon to tell. Jobs’s was a twenty year story. Let’s give Cook to the end of the decade at least.

    1. Maybe, but my experience is that you don’t survive heartbreak or suffering (yours or others) without developing some sort of philosophy, either simple or complex. I think Jobs was the most philosophical person in technology, except perhaps Ive.


          1. Just curious, can you point to evidence of this? I haven’t kept up with Ballmer (and, frankly, don’t want to do the work to do so now).

          2. “I’ve placed bets on less”
            Yes – but what is your win rate?-)
            rhetorical – no response required (but will certainly be entertained, especially if it is entertaining)

      1. I don’t see heart break as a conceptual or cognitive matter. It’s about healing and growing spiritually. Unless you mean philosophical in that deep sense. OK.

        1. IMHO, heartbreak itself is not about healing except after the fact. You try to put everything into perspective, all those “why” questions take on new urgency and significance once you’ve gone through heartbreak.

          Besides, you don’t decide it is important to change the world without some philosophical motivation. But, I also do not bifurcate intellect and emotion, either. You can’t live without one affecting the other.


          1. I’m not sure we disagree all that much.

            Let’s just say it’s in the doing. Anne Lamott: “You start wherever you can. You see a great need, so you thread a needle, you tie a knot in your thread. You find one place in the cloth through which to take one stitch, one simple stitch, nothing fancy, just one that’s strong and true.”

            So here’s where I do agree. Jobs had this quality of single minded focus and attention. And always had it.

            Maybe it’s what made him a great leader if not also a great manager: His predictability at the big picture level. Manager hate surprises; employees really hate surprises.

    2. I disagree. I think he was a philosopher. There’s very little philosophy of computing being done, but if you listen to Jobs, he’d thought very deeply about it and he was inspired by the few others who’d thought deeply about it (particularly Alan Kay). One of my favourite talks of his is from 1983 where he’s addressing an audience of designers and he asks, “What is a personal computer?” His answer is that it’s a medium and that’s why it’s not just about engineers, we need designers too. This was before the Mac was released. I don’t think there’s any more philosophical question than that and I think his answer was the guiding philosophy behind everything he did. Everything flowed from asking that question.

      1. The medium is the message? or the massage? McLuhan used to say. But I didn’t think he was philosophical either. Guess it’s what shakes up as philosophy for you.

        1. Jobs absolutely was a philosopher, as I said in another comment here, Jobs was a pragmatist, and I mean that in the philosophical sense. Pragmatists are concerned with practical solutions, truth, reality. There’s no disconnect between hard work and pragmatism.

          1. Today everyone thinks they are everything. To the detriment of us all. We have forgotten that a philosopher has a profession and a commitment, like a doctor or a parent or an engineer. No one would honestly claim that Jobs was an engineer tho’ he made engineer noises too. Nor was he a philosopher. He did no philosophy in any rigorous or real sense of the term.

            Read a bit of Midgley and the point is made.

            What’s true is our teachers are everywhere.

          2. Yes, I should have been clear that Jobs was a philosopher in the sense of ‘student of’. I shouldn’t say I’m a philosopher either even though that was my minor in university. Too much shorthand on my part.

            But Jobs did make good use of pragmatism, there’s no doubt about that. You can not be a Philosopher and yet still study aspects of philosophy and understand them well enough to apply the principles in your life. To be crystal clear, I mean Philosophy in the academic sense, I do not mean the simpler definition of “a personal outlook or viewpoint”.

          3. To be fair to you, stefnagel started out with “philosophical”, which is not to say the same thing as professional Philosopher. Everyone _is_ philosophical in one regard or another. That doesn’t necessitate adhering to a defined or even ad hoc criteria for Philosopher.


          4. Yes, I agree we shouldn’t call Jobs a Philosopher. And there is a difference between simply being philosophical to some degree and studying Philosophy, as well as focusing on a tradition or branch such as pragmatism. I am certain Jobs was a pragmatist. Not only that of course, but it seem obvious that he was focused on truth and practical solutions. Now, it is possible that Jobs was completely unaware of Philosophy, never studied one whit of it, and that he was an ‘accidental pragmatist’, but that seems unlikely.

        2. I mean he had a philosophical methodologically. He worked with concepts, he asked and answered questions of meaning. There’s not a lot of academic philosophy being done on the subjects where he worked: computing, business, design, etc. Much of it gets done outside the philosophy department. I guess some people would prefer it that way, but personally I’d like to see academic philosophers take up these questions.

          The personal computer is a medium in the basic sense that it’s a medium of representation: you can separate it into the media and what is represented. So a painting is a canvas with splotches of paint, but it represents a scene. The same is true of the personal computer. It’s a very basic insight, but people tend to overlook such simple issues. If anyone else had understood it, they would’ve known that design and artistry would be important too. As it was, most of the industry focused on only engineering aspect. Jobs understood that personal computing has this dual aspect, engineering and artistry, and he exploited it throughout his career.

  6. It is difficult right now trying not to conflate style with intent. Cook’s style is decidedly different than Jobs’. It may be a bit of a structure vs culture thing. All the things Cook has done that Jobs would never have done doesn’t require putting the end user second, but it might turn out that way. I do think Cook, Ive, and Jobs all share the same end-user philosophy, though. I don’t see how Cook could have stayed that long under Jobs without doing so. But stranger things have happened.

    Why. Exactly. I don’t think many other tech companies and their leaders ask that question at all.


  7. About Gruber: Maybe it’s my age. A forty-something telling Tim Cook to grow up smacks of a lack of self reflection. Minimum.

    1. And the only way to rebut Gruber is when other sites quote him. Pass the buck much?
      But, he’s really, really smart. And smug.

    2. “A forty-something telling Tim Cook to grow…” – stefnagel

      That’s not what Gruber said at all. In fact, he almost said the exact opposite. He said that Apple had grown up under Tim Cook.

  8. Whenever I read articles like this I get the sense there are two things people are thinking but don’t want to say out loud: one, Cook does not have the creativity and vision that Jobs had and two, no one else at Apple is stepping up to fill that role. I wish people would just admit what they’re privately thinking.

    As far as Apple focusing more on developers being bad for consumers I think just the opposite. I think our experience with iOS and OSX products are going to get infinitely better because developers now have the tools to make our experience better. Most of what I do with my iOS devices comes from 3rd party developers. I want Apple to do whatever it has to to keep iOS the platform developers want to develop on first. If that means showing them some love and giving them more powerful tools then I’m all for it.

    1. Except we don’t know if anyone else is stepping up. Apple is a very secretive company. It is entirely possible and maybe even likely that someone within Apple is doing the “dopey” idea thing and we will never hear about it.

      Cook can’t take the same role as Steve Jobs had. He isn’t the right person for that. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Trying to find a Steve Jobs replacement is possibly the worst thing that Apple can do. If it happens in the normal course of business, great but trying too hard to replace Jobs is going against his specific advice.

    2. “Cook does not have the creativity and vision that Jobs had and two, no one else at Apple is stepping up to fill that role” – rogifan

      As to the former, on one has the creativity and vision that Jobs had. Its irreplaceable. As to the latter, I said just the opposite. We don’t know if anyone is stepping up because the verdict is not in because the evidence is not in.

  9. We should avoid speculation here and look only what has transpired since Cook assumed the reins. Cook inherited a number of problems, so much of his time has been occupied in these areas while steering the behemoth that Apple has become in new directions.

    Cook inherited the legal battle with Samsung and has pursued this with vigour. Despite the costs and limited success in court, Apple has successfully exposed Samsung as a copier of other people’s ideas and their high end product as a “me-too”, poor-man’s copy of the iPhone. Samsung’s financials show the impact that this has had, while iPhone reigns supreme as the best phone money can buy. iPhone 6 is due any minute and various reports suggest that potential Samsung buyers are holding out for a bigger-screened iPhone. In the meantime Cook has overseen the move to 64bit and the very successful introduction of finger scanning security while Samsung’s attempt to copy this has been roundly criticised for poor execution. The new features in iOS 8 and the upcoming Mac OS release which tie iPhone and Mac together are unmatchable by any Android manufacturer. All in all, a big tick to Cook here.

    The Mac Pro has been very well received and Apple wins lots of points for bringing manufacturing back to the USA – something Steve Jobs said would never happen.

    MacBook Air is the “go-to” product in portable computers. Cook has improved the product and reduced the price, leaving the competition to eat Apple’s dust.

    Yosemite lifts the bar enormously and, with iOS 8, changes the landscape. Android doesn’t play in this space and dear old Microsoft remains mired in problems of their own creation as they struggle to keep Windows relevant. The world is going Mac, or mobile. Windows is dead but the life support is still turned on.

    Final Cut Pro X is now accepted by the industry and has a large user base. The combination of Pro X and Mac Pro provides performance and functionality which sets the benchmark here for most film industry people, with more functionality to come over time as Pro X matures. It’s always brave to start from scratch, but the new platform creates a new foundation – the old Final Cut was architected in a different era.

    iPad is now the unchallenged leader in corporates and schools. Android tablets still have few apps and issues for developers. Lots of Android tablets are sold but network data shows they are not much used.

    iTunes has a few issues. Cook has made a bold move with the acquisition of Beats. We will have to see how this works out.

    iCloud is now useful, after a change of heart about file storage. I suspect Apple has big plans for the cloud and are currently just building the foundations, but time will tell.

    iWork is now free and Microsoft have had to scurry to defend the flagging Office franchise. Some functionality has been lost in the Mac versions of iWork but the platform has been re-engineered to work across all technology platforms and the missing functionality is gradually being added back. The new features in iOS 8 and Yosemite are astonishing and drive home Apple’s advantage by leveraging the Mac – for which Android has no answer.

    Maps is now a solid application and Cook has cemented Apple’s control of the user and deprived Google of a significant advertising revenue stream – revenge is a dish best served cold, and Steve Jobs would be clapping loudly. Google’s attempt to give Android an advantage by limiting functionality on the iPhone maps product was clearly a major mis-step. Google maps is still available for the iPhone, and the new version now has all the functionality – but it is largely ignored.

    Cook has also had to deal with the vultures of the stock market and has neatly eliminated the various threats to Apple’s independence by introducing a dividend, splitting the shares and implementing a buy back scheme. He has work to do on overseas capital but it’s a fair bet that there is a strategy in place for this.

    These are only some examples of Cook’s approach across what is now a behemoth of an organisation. We know there is a lot in the pipeline as well, but Cook appears to be on top of his game and methodical in his approach: dotting iiii’s and crossing tttt’s while giving his creative teams the resources to do amazing things. Cook’s attitude to developers is different from Jobs’ view, and WWDC was something of a tour de force, with the revelation of a brand new programming language, Swift, the icing on the cake. Jobs held on tight but Cook is more relaxed and developers like it. Remember that Mac OS and iOS are similar enough for developers to work cross-platform. There is nothing like this in the Android space and Microsoft have opted to stick with Windows on their tablets which makes it easy for developers but complicated for users.

    The new Apple is hitting its stride. So far it looks pretty good. It is no longer an issue of who is CEO so much as how cohesive is the team. Jobs did an amazing Job of driving Apple, but his real legacy is in laying the value foundation upon which he built the team to take Apple into the next era. He chose Cook and, by all accounts, he chose well. But he also ensured that Apple would be manageable by building an extraordinary team and a unique ethos.

    1. Nice summary. Cook is also planning for a much more diverse and dynamic future by building up his team with some extremely high-level talent from the fields of music, retail, fashion, sports performance, fitness and health.

      1. And global resource protection by hiring the former head of the EPA, going all-solar at the data centers, and moving up in the Greenpeace charts.

        Apple also is using the best architecture and designers in its new construction, both corporate and retail.

        Apple is also assembling a stronger, in house marketing, PR, and advertising crew.

    2. I enjoy John Kirk’s writing, his span of ideas, the cascade of quotations, the little tweaks in conventional thinking that freshen up the remains of a dead horse.

      And John Kirk is fearless in the face of the murmuring Apple hordes who may take exception to his deconstruction of their latest manifesto. And Lord knows, John Gruber seems a few pegs too high on his perch at times to hear the voices down below.

      So for all the reasons above, I liked John Kirk’s article. I’d prefer to have liked it for its correctness of insight. I find the conclusion weak and the evidence flimsy. I also question the analogy with Microsoft; their developers and their customers don’t map to Apple’s. Microsoft is enterprise, Apple is you and me.

      So I prefer your article, sunbeamrapier. I think you have it right, with your calm evidentiary style and subdued guesswork. Which I think maps to Tim Cook’s style.

      1. If you can’t annoy somebody with what you write, I think there’s little point in writing. ~ Kingsley Amis

        I like your comment, hannahjs, both pro and con. Writing is thinking on paper. I asked a question and then I let my writing answer it. I’m satisfied with the result.

  10. Could you please name the “B” people now and under Steve Jobs. That would be really enlightening. I mean the people that really matter.

    1. I didn’t say that Apple had hired “B” people. I said that Steve Jobs was fanatical about trying to only hire “A-level” people for his team and, as a result, Apple was perpetually understaffed.

      1. You only implied the hiring of B people by Tim Cook then. As far as I can determine Tim Cook has eliminated the shortage of staff and the only way he could do that is by hiring “B” people. Casting doubt on the successor of Steve Jobs is the tenure of your article. It is difficult to deny this.

        1. “Casting doubt on the successor of Steve Jobs is the tenure of your article.” – Rudolf Charel

          I’m asking questions. If that casts doubt, so be it. But I think the questions I asked cast more light than doubt.

          1. Yes, you ask questions, but then you also come to conclusions.

            What about this for example: “The result? Superb products that were always running on the edge, always running late; always in danger of not coming out in a timely fashion or in any fashion at all.”

            Or this: “Creativity is dopey thinking — right up until the moment when it suddenly becomes brilliant. It’s unimaginable thinking — right up until the moment that it suddenly becomes the only solution imaginable. It’s uncomfortable thinking, it’s dangerous thinking, it’s lonely, isolated thinking — right up until the moment when it’s embraced by all.”

            And getting back to staffing and “B” players: “Being inefficient was one of the many prices Apple paid for having Steve Jobs as its CEO. Jobs notoriously didn’t tolerate “B” players on his team. He felt they infected the company and soon led to the proliferation of “C” players as well. Jobs wanted only “A” players and he was willing to have Apple be understaffed rather than to fill vacancies with anything less that what he deemed to be the best.”

            If Tim Cook did not surround himself with B players, what are you suggesting with this article. Asking questions is not all of it,

          2. I’m saying that efficiency is not the goal, effectiveness is. I’m saying that creativity is fragile and needs to be protected. I’m saying that Steve Jobs did both those things. But at a price. I”m saying that Tim Cook needs to do both those things. I’m saying that I hope he has, but that we won’t know until he does.

          3. Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but your title implied there was absence (or at least, I inferred absence from it). Perhaps you mean that Jobs definitively had the know-why and Cook definitively the know-how, but it remains to be seen where the know-why resides now (or if it left with Jobs).

            I doubt things were that clearly cut. There are stories (and that is all the basis I have) that Jobs was able to be convinced to change his stance. And sort of by definition if there is a know-why leader, others must fit into the categories of extending that leadership, following it, or getting out of the way.

            The evidence from WWDC suggests that there’s a lot of thought leadership going on. My guess is Jobs worked on a 5-10 year horizon, so the setting of the tiller still has the influence of his hand. (less than 5 years, you’re merely reacting. more than 10, you are WAGing.)

          4. My title said that Cook had the know-how and Jobs had the know-why and the article explored whether or not Cook had the know-why too. Seemed like a topic well-worth eploring.

          5. Please rest assured that my comments are not meant as criticism but merely fodder for thought and discussion. I look forward to see what sprouts from your fount of knowledge (to mangle a bunch of metaphors)

          6. “Please rest assured that my comments are not meant as criticism but merely fodder for thought and discussion” – Nathan Hillery (N8nNC)

            Understood. And I’m am trying to reply in kind in order to keep the productive discussions alive.

          7. So at last you admit that the purpose of your article is to cast doubt on Tim Cook. Therefor it is time you answer the question I asked in the beginning.

            Could you please name the “B” people now and under Steve Jobs. That would be really enlightening.

          8. “So at last you admit that the purpose of your article is to cast doubt on Tim Cook.”

            You seem to think that I’m out to get Tim Cook. Nothing could be further from the truth.

            I’m casting doubt on the certainty of his success. Surely that is not a bad thing to do. I also cast lots of doubt on what Steve Jobs did during his tenure. If I were at Valley Forge I would have questioned Washington’s move to attack Trenton. If I were at the Constitutional convention, I would have cast doubt on many of the clauses that eventually found their way into that glorious document.

            It sounds to me like you’re conflating inquiry with heresy.

          9. I think you do protest too much and I think to cast doubt on Tim Cook is premature. So far he has increased the share price to unbelievable heights. As to his “Jobsian side” why not wait for this fall when several new products are promised. And name the B people now all over Apple Corp as implied in your article.

          10. “I think to cast doubt on Tim Cook is premature” – Rudolf Charel

            Did I not conclude that it was premature to judge Tim Cook at this time?

          11. After spending a whole article casting doubt you covered your opinion with one sentence calling casting doubt premature. You have covered all possibilities well sir. If you were sure of being premature you would have waited with this article untill December.

            Statements like the following do not cut it.

            “We’ll have to wait and see if he, and Apple, still retain the know-why.”

          12. “After spending a whole article casting doubt…” – Rudolf Charel

            Wow. I wan’t casting doubt on Tim Cook. If anything, I was casting doubt on some of the rosy assessments. And I was trying to point out that efficiency is not the same and effectiveness and so on. But I see we’re never going to agree. I’ll let you have the last word, if you wish.

  11. John – it’s a rare article that I find myself disagreeing and disbelieving. However, my esteem for your past thoughts cautions me to suspend judgement lest it be me that is actually proved wrong, so I kept reading. Thankfully the last paragraph set things straight again. It is indeed to early to judge results, but I haven’t seen anything that rouses my suspicion that Apple is close to off-track or even close to losing laser-like focus on the whole experience. Developers who feel enabled & disencumbered are more likely to produce great apps. I didn’t see anything that looked like they are being coddled at the future expense of users.

    1. I appreciate your thoughts, N8nnc. Sometimes my writing takes me in unexpected directions and to unexpected places.

      A couple of aphorisms and quotes for you (all) to chew upon:

      I don’t think writers should write about answers, I think writers should write about questions. ~ Paul Haggis

      “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ~ Mark Twain

      “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” ~ Peter Drucker

      “No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.” ~ Charles Steinmetz

      1. I always love your quotes, and your directions whether expected or unexpected. Oftentimes, your columns have a unfolding nature to them (a dance of the veils, as it were), but this one seemed to have a conclusion in the title and worked back to expose the gaps in the foundation. It occurs to me now that this approach may have been required, unless I wanted a very short column. (“Judgement of Cook requires evidence that will unfold only over years. The end.”)

        “Exaggerations of my verdict have been greatly reported – Tim Cook”

        1. Yes. I implied in my title that Tim Cook did not have the know-why. But that wasn’t the article’s conclusion, right?

          I started the article with a question rather than a conclusion and I let the writing examine the facts and draw its own conclusion.

          1. “I started the article with a question rather than a conclusion and I let the writing examine the facts and draw its own conclusion.”

            That and your Haggis quote upthread reminded me of a passage from Drucker on Shumpeter’s view of Marx:

            “Shumpeter always maintained that Marx had been dead wrong in every one of his answers. But he still considered himself a son of Marx, and held him in greater esteem than any other economist. At least, so he argued, Marx asked the right questions. and to Shumpeter questions were always more important than answers.”

          2. How about this quote:

            “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.” ~ Claude Levi-Strauss

            And if you don’t like that…

            …I’ve got more. 🙂

  12. My gut feel is that after righting the Apple 2.0 boat and his initial health scare, Steve Jobs focused on the “insanely great” product being Apple itself. Yes, delightful devices are great, the corporate mission, and essential to growth, but a machine that can deliver such devices repeatedly longer than a single human’s lifespan is the ultimate goal. (Penultimate, I suppose, to a machine that can create such machines. Or perhaps that’s part of the Beats deal, though I more realistically expect that to be about Iovine’s ability to negotiate the media licensing industry.)

    A last note on Jobs’ philosophical nature: I think he was philosophical in the sense of never-ending inquiry replacing near-term acquiry. And I think he instilled that drive into Apple culture.

    1. Steve Jobs created Apple University in order to keep the Apple way alive. I have no doubt that Tim Cook is a true believer. Only time will tell whether that is enough. I like what I see. But I want to see more.

  13. Ya’ know there Kirk? You and I don’t see eye to eye and possibly never will on many things. I do love your writing though. I often find myself adamantly agreeing and just as adamantly disagreeing with different parts of the same article. Keep it up!

    Your “punishment” is that I am part of your “recovery program”.

    1. Kind words, klahanas. I’ll try not to disappoint. 🙂

      “Curiosity … endows the people who have it with a generosity in argument and a serenity in cheerful willingness to let life take the form it will.” ~ Alistair Cooke

    2. One place I worked, I quipped that we had strongly argued ideas that we’d drop in a heartbeat if better ones emerged. That is, be passionate, but not about hanging onto ‘darlings’. Written communication, especially casual, can produce severely different interpretations. It’s best not to let difference of opinion* get in the way of civility, friendship, and perceived kinship.

      * – especially opinion about uncalibrated interpretations of facts that are themselves uncertain

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