Tim Cook goes every October 5 to Twitter to say what he misses Steve Jobs. That day seven years ago the genius of Apple passed away. In the last message, Cook recalled his former boss saying he taught him "what it means to serve humanity." Whenever he has a chance, he says how much he inspired him. He was chosen to give continuity to the vision with which he revolutionized multiple industries thanks to the Mac, the iPod or the iPhone. But it has long since departed from its shadow.
Jobs was an iconoclast. He had an extraordinary ability to distance himself from the norm. He was stubborn, with very firm ideas about what he wanted Apple to be, and he was one step ahead of his competitors. The success of the company is still based on that culture of innovation with which Apple revived. But his masterful touch was to place the consumer at the center of his vision and cultivate his loyalty with extraordinary devices. It was not the first, but it was the best on the market.
Cook is not so charismatic. And far from it is a pioneer in the computer industry. But he is the ideal general for times of peace. Its magic lies in having taken advantage of the brand's reputation and establishing a very profitable business model that has given stability to the company and made it predictable. Already as director of operations he was in charge of fine-tuning the complex supply chain that gave life to Jobs' ideas and turned Apple into a great industrial powerhouse.
But who is really the best manager of the two executives? Were the past times more prosperous than the present? There are many ways to measure the quality of a CEO, such as the stock market valuation of the company it runs, the patents it presents, its weight in the market where it operates, the pace of sales growth or the power of the brand. Apple's performance has been superlative for the last seven years in all metrics.
With much less charisma than Jobs, Cook has given Apple more performance
And that despite the sales of the iPhone, its flagship product, stalled two years ago. Instead of falling revenues, they grew thanks to Cook's established structure that allowed the machine to continue advancing at an enviable pace despite its maturity and size. His big bet was to promote services to monetize the ecosystem of devices that work with the iOS operating system. The profit margin, in addition, is much higher.
Cook worked for Compaq when Jobs signed him. Before that he went to IBM, after graduating from the University of Auburn (Alabama). His environment told him that moving to Apple was crazy because it was a company much more modest in size, which was full of problems and led by an executive who was left over with ego. But his intuition made him take the step. He was convinced that the Cupertino firm was doing something different from the rest of the technology industry.
Tim Cook did things that Steve Jobs would never have considered. The great unmarking occurred when he decided to return money en masse to the shareholders, by way of the repurchase of shares and the delivery of dividends. He did it, also, by resorting to the debt market so as not to have to repatriate the cash that he accumulated abroad. This award explains to a large extent the rise that took Apple to the trillion dollars of stock market valuation and attracted investors like Warren Buffett.
He had to deal with Apple's management twice before Jobs retired completely, while treating cancer. The company continued to introduce new products, such as the watch, wireless headphones or speaker with assistant. In the design he showed that nothing is sacred, by eliminating the start button, he entered the game of large screens, introduced a mini version of the iPad, incorporated the electronic pen and eliminated the USB port of the laptops.
The CEO is being very rigorous in the control of the quality of the products. He says that every day he gets up at four o'clock in the morning to read the comments of the users, not to depend only on what his environment tells him. But that did not prevent embarrassing moments, such as the problems he had with the mapping application, the battery case for the iPhone, the touch bar on the MacBookPro or the delayed marketing of the HomePod.
He distanced himself from him by giving dividends to investors. But today the competition tightens
If what is observed is the market, the situation is different. The great enemy of Steve Jobs was Microsoft, the dominant company in the technology sector. Google began at that time to gain preeminence. Cook now has to deal with Facebook, Amazon, Samsung and dozens of manufacturers of low-cost electronic devices that use the Android operating system, which are very strong rivals in emerging markets.
The competitive space, therefore, is huge and that forces the CEO of Apple to preserve its place instead of marking the way. The product presentations of Apple are no longer unique and the suspense effect of the past was lost, to the point that the events close without the famous "there is another thing", with which Jobs surprised his fans. They are, in fact, the most critical of Cook.
Jobs put his soul into the products. Cook also worries about the company as a whole, to the point of getting involved in actions to make it more socially responsible. His activism became a hallmark of Apple. He spoke openly about the rights of homosexuals, Privacy wave migration, improved working conditions throughout the supply chain and committed to use 100% renewable energy. It is his way of taking his vision further.