Tim Cook: You need to dissolve the church of Apple

By Peter Gothard
19 Feb 2013 View Comments
Apple chief executive Tim Cook

Tim Cook needs to stop trying to be Steve Jobs, and instead attempt to be himself.

Further reading

His brace of high-profile layoffs at Apple last year could have been a suggestion he was starting, finally, to run Apple in his own way. The wheels might be turning, I thought. Innovation might be in the air.

I considered the company's recent conduct at the time: an in-house Maps app that was causing baffled travellers to drive their cars into rivers; the iPhone 5 achieving nothing new beyond being a bit taller (bitterly devoid of the potentially industry-shaking NFC); and the iPad Mini being simply a me-too smaller tablet to rival the Nexus 7 and its ilk.

I forgave, and gave it six more months. But what have we had since? We've had suggestions Apple is stealing the basis of a successful Kickstarter campaign for an innovative smartwatch from last year.

Oh, and we've had the religion stuff.

Last week, Cook was doing the media rounds. The Guardian's Heidi Moore identified Cook's expectation that customers should have faith in the company's output – rather than judging it on the quality and innovativeness of its products or anything – as comparable to the Catholic church reaching that crucial point in history where faith was no longer an automatic process.

It's a great analogy, but while Moore remarks that Cook "really settled into his priest-like role", I see a man not so much getting used to being the next Pope, but instead nervously attempting to impersonate a deity, and hoping that nobody will notice.

I see a hugely able businessman still living in the gargantuan shadow of his predecessor, too afraid (or, more likely, forbidden) to make any of his own big decisions.

Apple shares aren't worth what they once were, but they're still worth a veritable pile of money (about £300 each, currently). If you were an Apple shareholder, and you'd watched Jobs over the course of 14 years turn a relatively niche computer company into a lifestyle gadget empire, you'd be pretty keen to keep that mysterious force running at full pelt.

The trouble is, Cook is not a mysterious force. He's not even slightly enigmatic. He's a cheerful, middle-aged executive with a background in sales, who likes to jog at the weekend. He's not an inventor, or an angry, macrobiotic ex-hippy with a well-known affinity for black polo neck sweaters.

Cook doesn't have the advantage of being surrounded by a publicly-appointed heroic aura which makes him – somehow – the idol of every small business owner I've met, some of whom freely admit to filling their offices with Macs simply to try and channel a little bit of the magic this bullying, cut-throat and hugely talented genius embodied.

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