It’s clear the Job’s deathbed playbook has long since been used up. The Apple devices are getting worse and worse year over year, but Tim Cook has managed to drive shareholder value despite that. Apple is the most valuable company in the world – no one can take that away from Tim Cook; but Apple has fallen from grace, and as captain of the ship Tim Cook bears all the blame.
Did we need Tim Cook to be Steve Jobs? I don’t think so. I don’t think we needed the swagger and arrogance of Jobs to fall in love with a new Apple CEO. I don’t think we needed a visionary per se, but we did need someone interested in continuing Apple’s culture of fearless innovation rather than focusing exclusively of sucking as much money out of their customers as possible.
Ecosystem lock-in is the last bastion of Tim Cook; his last refuge against the slings and arrows of critics pining for the day when Steve Jobs would excite us with his latest inventions. “They won’t leave our ecosystem” must be his daily mantra, as he catches the whiff of more and more scathing reviews of the latest of Apple’s hackneyed attempts to trick their customers into thinking they should pay a premium price for what amounts to a slipshod parody of innovation. “They won’t leave us”, he must pray just before he drifts off to a restless sleep, tortured by nightmares of a zombie Steve Jobs crashing the next shareholder call and openly criticizing him for his utter lack of vision.
“But the money”, they say, “surely money is an accurate proxy for consumer satisfaction”? In no way could it possibly be so: the product reviews do not line up with market valuation. Apple is growing by cannibalizing the good will of it’s most loyal fans, and in the coming years there will be little flesh left to nibble.
My theory is that Tim Cook knows his reign is coming to a close. He doesn’t need to work, he is wealthy practically beyond measure. He can buy whatever situation he likes, and live in extreme comfort until the end of his days. Tim Cook never struck me as being egotistical, and I don’t think he needs to be CEO of Apple to validate his existence. As a result, he must be searching for a successor. I also do not believe Tim Cook is a fool, and I believe he is painfully aware of the parallels between Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and Steve Jobs and himself. As a result, he must now be looking for Apple’s Satya Nadella.
What would the new CEO figuratively look like? Would it be a clone of Nadella? Would it be relative unknown of whom Elon Musk is their spirit animal? Some piss-and-vinegar senior executive desperate to be given a chance to have their legacy preserved in the annals of global captains of industry? Certainly, whomever this person is, this mission would not be to drive shareholder value: Tim Cook did as excellent as job as anyone could ever reasonably ask of him. Their mission must therefore be to return Apple to the imperfect yet courageous culture of its middle-age: to create great products that are the envy of both customers and competitors.
Where would this new CEO start? Anywhere they wanted: Apple’s product line is a mess. The changes needed to restore faith in Apple’s ability to innovate are spelled out in every scathing review:
- Remove the notch
- Scrap the touch bar
- Bring back the fingerprint reader
- Shrink the track-pad
- Make a functional keyboard
- Cool the CPUs
- Neuter the dongles
- De-Google Glass the Airpods
- Ditch Dick Tracy
- Remake the mini
- Reenter the desktop
Doing this alone and the new CEO would be a super hero, but it would not be enough. The next level for Apple is:
- Outshine Alexa
- Fuse with Tesla
- Replace Facebook
- Augment all the realities
- Bring VR to the masses
Certainly, no small feat, but feats the next Apple CEO must accomplish to earn their spot amongst legends. Who among ye is up to the task?