20 August 2019
Tim Cook has come into his own after being a faithful implementer of Steve Jobs' broad ideas. Photo: Bloomberg
Tim Cook has come into his own after being a faithful implementer of Steve Jobs' broad ideas. Photo: Bloomberg

Why Tim Cook is such a happy man these days

Not too many top executives in the rapidly changing tech world can simply sit back and unwind like Tim Cook.

Reason: Apple Inc. just had a strong quarter and its new products have been drawing rave reviews.

But perhaps nothing excites him more than the upcoming launch of the Apple Watch.

Despite some disparaging remarks, observers including technology news website CNET hailed its unveiling last month as the beginning of the wearable gadget era.

By contrast, a motley bunch of prior offerings from the Android family have been described merely as “soft launches”.

To Cook, the positive initial feedback to the Apple Watch from industry analysts can be more heartening than the robust sales of the new iPhones.

After all, it is the firm’s first new product line since Cook took the wheel of Apple, one of the world’s most valuable companies, in 2011.

It’s a testimony to his leadership that Apple continues to come up with new innovations — and Cook is not shy about it.

At a recent company event, Cook proudly showed the cover of Vogue magazine in which a model is seen wearing an Edition Collection Apple Watch.

The big picture is even more impressive.

For the fiscal fourth quarter to Sept. 27, company revenue and quarterly net profit posted robust growth to US$42.1 billion and US$8.5 billion, respectively.

Not a shabby record to herald what people describe as the beginning of the Tim Cook era.

Naturally, it inspires comparisons with Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder, although, obviously, they’re two very different animals.

Jobs was famous for his charisma and was often regarded as ruthless perfectionist; Cook is a more detail-oriented leader who pays a lot of attention to marketing strategy, sales networks and supply chains. 

Jobs used to bombard subordinates with pointed questions at meetings while Cook would silently stare at anyone whose solutions or performance don’t live up to his expectations. Highly sensitive to numbers, Cook puts extra emphasis on accuracy.

It is said that many journalists are frustrated during one-on-one interviews with Cook, who says little and prefers a low profile. He won’t talk about details of future products or his private life and seldom joins social events.

Among the few things we know about Cook is that he is a workaholic. He would get up at 5 a.m. and hit the gym to start his day.

In the time they worked together, Jobs liked to draw up plans in broad strokes while Cook broke them down for implementation and day-to-day operation.

When Cook introduced the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S –- all were clones of the original iPhone 4 which earned Apple much of its fame — he was criticized for merely copying the idea and design of older models from the Jobs era.

But it’s likely Jobs himself wanted it that way, which would make Cook a faithful implementer. 

The robust sales of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and the warm reception for the Apple watch show Cook has ably responded to market trends after Jobs’ passing.

For example, Cook recognizes that consumers prefer so-called “phablets”, smartphones approaching tablet size with crispier displays, to pocket-sized handsets.

The bigger new iPhones are a big departure from Jobs’ 3.5-inch optimum screen size and a clear sign Cook makes his own calls and wants to put his stamp on the post-Jobs era.

The new iPhones sold 39.3 million units worldwide in the nine days since their Sept. 9 debut, a remarkable feat given that these were not yet available at the time in China, Apple’s largest overseas market.

With their launch in the mainland last Friday, coupled with the upcoming Christmas and lunar Chinese New Year shopping seasons, analysts expect stronger sales figures when Apple unveils its next earnings report.

iPad Air 2 and the new iMac with retina display, released last Thursday, will help boost sales.

Since Wednesday, Cook has been on the ground in China to check on Apple’s operations and meet a number of senior Chinese officials.

On top of a visit to an Apple Store in Beijing to spend time with Chinese fans, a trip to Changshu is also on the agenda. The county-level city in eastern Jiangsu province is home to a plant owned by Taiwan OEM firm Quanta, a major contract manufacturer for the Apple Watch.

– Contact the writer at [email protected]


Robust new iPhone sales have lifted Apple’s quarterly earnings to a new high, and with the gadgets hitting the Chinese market this month, the firm’s profitability is set to go up further. Photo: Bloomberg

EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe