Is Tim Cook’s lack of showmanship hurting Apple?
By Rimma Kats
February 20, 2013
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
Although many may argue otherwise, Apple is still at the top of its game. The manufacturing giant has received some scrutiny over the past months, most recently for a major drop in its stock value. However, some believe that it is CEO Tim Cook’s fault for not putting on more of a public face – something his charismatic predecessor and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs did immensely well.
Many industry experts believe that Apple has an ongoing image problem that stems from its public relations department. Essentially, Apple has not done a great job managing the transition of Mr. Cook as its CEO, especially after the death of Mr. Jobs, who passed away in 2011.
“Tim Cook is perceived to be less of a showman than Steve Jobs," said Neil Mawston, England-based director of global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics. "Tim Cook’s public face is arguably less charismatic than Steve Jobs’.
“Tim’s Cook’s private face behind the scenes is one where he excels, in areas such as logistics,” he said. “Apple is currently one of the world’s most profitable companies and profits are at a record high.
“Tim Cook may not have been the best CEO of 2012, but he was definitely not the worst.”
Following a legend
Mr. Jobs understood hardware, networks and software. He made Apple what it is today.
Not only was he a revolutionary, but he changed the mobile industry for the better.
Many may argue that Mr. Cook might not have the same confidence in his own vision – the way that Mr. Jobs had – to define new markets and new products.
For a year, Mr. Cook had been the brain behind the supply chain, responsible for creating the impressive margins and profitability of Apple’s Mac and iPhone products.
However, industry experts believe that it has cast him as more of an accountant than the revolutionary, rebel and dreamer that Mr. Jobs was, which helped in making Apple the powerhouse it is today.
“We would advise Tim Cook to do a better job of setting expectations about how often revolutionary products come along,” Mr. Mawston said. “Revolutionary electronic products are rare, not routine.
“Steve Jobs developed revolutionary products, like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad, once every two to three years on average during the 2000s,” he said. “But, there were more than five years between the launch of the first iPod and the first iPhone.
“And yet, less than three years after the launch of the iPad, the world is clamoring for yet another electronics revolution. This is unrealistic. Tim Cook needs to remind the world to be more patient.”
Exclusivity was a big deal for Mr. Jobs.
And, the product life cycle for Macs, iPads and iPhones was at least a year.
However, its product life cycle is becoming less than that.
Mr. Jobs always strived on Apple taking its time with its products and making sure that they are up-to-par.
With his passing, however, it seems that there has been a shift.
For example, Apple launched its iPhone 5 and iPad Mini in the fall. Rumors are circling that updated versions of the products will be released in the spring.
If reports are true and the life cycle of Apple products is becoming less and less, the manufacturing giant could face issues with consumers.
“The global consumer electronics market has changed since the Steve Jobs era and Apple needs to change too,” Mr. Mawston said. “The pace of technological change now means Apple must refresh its products faster than ever.
“As technological innovation accelerates, Apple needs to accelerate its innovation too,” he said. “Apple must launch more new devices so as not to be seen as a laggard.
“However, Apple must not launch too many devices, so as not to be seen as a panic measure. It is a fine dividing line between over-launching and under-launching.”
Others, however, believe the product cycle works.
“While many people were unimpressed with Apple's product line-up coming into the fourth-quarter, I for one was blown away by the fact that the company completely upgraded its ever-important product line from the year before,” said Jason Arena, vice president of brand strategy and marketing at KSC Kreate.
“The only product line not to see a facelift was the Mac Pro line, which will see an upgrade in 2013,” he said. “If you had taken the time to watch the product launch presentations and then visit an Apple Store between October 1 and December 31, you would have seen best-in-class products in every category they competed in.
“Every product was beautiful to look at and hold and operate. People need to appreciate that Apple's incremental innovation is nothing short of amazing.”
Future of Apple
Apple has had its ups and downs during 2012.
Although Apple is dealing with some production issues as it tries to keep up with demand for its products, the company could still generate more than $200 billion in 2013 (see story).
Many may think, though, that Wall Street has the knives out for Apple.
Last month, the company’s stock value dropped because the numbers were slightly below analysts' expectations.
Nevertheless, the manufacturing giant is selling more mobile devices than ever before and making money hand over fist.
For Apple to be like it was, or even better, Mr. Cook has to be more personable and show passion for the products he is looking to sell.
"Mr. Jobs is irreplaceable for sure," Mr. Arena said. "Mr. Cook is not a showman the way Mr. Jobs was —
it's not better or worse, just different.
"I don't think it would serve the company for Mr. Cook to be something he is not — him pretending to act like Mr. Jobs would cut across the grain of the entire culture of Apple," he said. "Apple is an authentic brand and while their marketing is world-class, it is not the reason for their success.
"Moreover, their marketing is a reflection of their core brand values – innovation, pursuit of perfection,
simple and human. Mr. Cook as the leader of the company needs to be authentic himself. To be clear, Apple as a company is not better off without Mr. Jobs. Mr. Cook would probably agree. But that doesn't mean they can't continue to be the best technology company the world has ever seen."
Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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Comments on "Is Tim Cook’s lack of showmanship hurting Apple?"
chris jones says:
March 4, 2013 at 4:51pm
George Sloane says:
February 21, 2013 at 12:58am