Tim Cook Vs. Steve Jobs: Two Different Styles but the Same Results (so far)

by Joe Sesso on April 18, 2012

When Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, he made sure that his handpicked successor, Tim Cook, became CEO of Apple. Jobs had built his executive team from scratch, and he knew what it took to be successful at the company he co-founded. Tim Cook was his right-hand man, without a doubt. So it came as no surprise when Cook was chosen to succeed Jobs in 2011. But it didn’t take long for Cook to put his own stamp on the company – and so far the results are nothing short of amazing. When Cook announced the New iPad in March, he didn’t mention Jobs in his presentation. Was this by mistake, or did Cook want to keep the attention on the product and not Jobs?

Replacing Steve Jobs Isn't Easy

There’s no doubt that Jobs’ fingerprints are still on the new products that Apple has released. The New iPad is definitely from Jobs, as will be the new iPhone 5 in the Summer. The mysterious TV from Apple will also be credited to Jobs, as he famously claimed that he “cracked the code” in his biography, when it came to television. But that will probably be the last product that Jobs will be a part of. After that, it will be all on Cook. But Cook has already made a huge splash at Apple. Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between these two Apple leaders.

Apple’s Stock Price: When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, the company was struggling. Its stock was trading at around $30 and it had nothing new in the hopper. Jobs’ second act at Apple was his best, as he unleashed product after product that made huge profits for the company and set the bar for technology. When he passed away at the age of 55 in 2011, Apple was trading at over $350 per share. In 14 years, Steve Jobs had grown Apple tenfold. This was nothing short of amazing. But less than a year since becoming Apple CEO, Tim Cook has done pretty well himself. When Cook first took over, Apple was trading at about $350 per share. Today it’s about $600 per share. Most people thought that Apple’s stock would decline when Jobs died. It’s actually done the opposite. Both CEOs get great marks for this.

What To Do With All That Cash: When Apple closed out their first quarter of 2012, they reported having $100 billion cash on hand. Cook decided to use it to buy back stock and pay out a cash dividend to shareholders. This is something that Jobs never did and swore he never would do. Apple’s dividend was applauded by shareholders, as it’s a great way to stabilize the stock and encourage investment in the company. Jobs didn’t like dividends because he thought it was just giving money away. He preferred to use it for research and development or to buy other companies that could help Apple’s long-term strategy. This is an area where Jobs and Cook differ greatly. Neither is right or wrong here, it’s just two different philosophies at work.

China: Steve Jobs never visited China as Apple’s CEO. Tim Cook visited many times as COO for Apple to set up and oversee the company’s massive supply chain operations. He was credited for making Apple the efficient and well-organized company that you see today. That’s why Jobs liked him so much. He put a lot of trust in Cook, and Cook responded extremely well. This is probably why Jobs tapped him to be CEO after Jobs left. Jobs felt that with Cook as COO, it wasn’t necessary to visit China himself. Cook hasn’t let being CEO slow down his travel schedule for the company. He recently visited China for a long stretch to look at and evaluate Foxconn facilities, meet with government officials, and visit Apple’s retail stores. Cook definitely feels comfortable in China, and he knows that the relationships he’s built there over the years will pay off big time for Apple in the future.

Creativity: Steve Jobs made Apple, plain and simple. His first act at the company was outstanding, and it was his vision that brought forth the Macintosh, the Apple II, and the way we interact with our computers (the mouse, for starters). His second act was even better. The iMac, Macbook series, iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad changed the world. This simply would not have happened had Jobs not come back to Apple. Tim Cook is not creative like Jobs. He’s not a product guy. He’s an operations and systems genius, but don’t look for new products to come from his creativity. It’s not going to happen. Tim Cook won’t even try to compare himself to Steve Jobs. He can’t. But like he’s often said since becoming Apple’s CEO, he can do his best to carry on Steve’s mission to make products that change the world. Cook will do his part, and the rest of the creative team will do theirs. It’s this area where Apple misses Jobs most. Jobs didn’t just make products that consumers wanted. He often said that consumers don’t know what they want yet because “it” (whatever “it” was) doesn’t exist. Steve had that vision to build something that he knew people would want.

Jobs Changed the World with Products Like the iPod

Taking the reigns after a superstar CEO leaves the company is hard enough. Trying to fill the shoes of the beloved Steve Jobs is even harder. Tim Cook knew that he would be compared to his former boss and mentor every single day, as well as every single product launch and earnings report. So far he’s done very well. Although he’s not the creative genius that Jobs was (but who is?), he excels in other areas that are critical to Apple’s success. So far, Mr. Cook, so good.



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