The Journal’s Tripp Mickle, a long-time Apple skeptic, had to write a major profile without access to his subject.
From “How Tim Cook Made Apple His Own” ($) in Saturday’s Journal:
The industrial engineer has turned Steve Jobs’s creation into a corporate colossus, delivering one of the most lucrative business successions in history…
Mr. Cook tends to assess new product ideas with caution, taking the position in some discussions that he doesn’t want to release a product that may sell poorly and undermine the company’s track record of success, according to senior engineers.
“Apple seems to be hitting on all cylinders, but beyond the hardware team achieving new performance gains, there’s a stagnation and incrementalism,” said John Burkey, a former Apple software engineer and founder of Brighten.ai, a virtual-assistant company. He added that Apple’s strong hold on customers who continue to buy new iPhones masks weaknesses and creates a risk that they may miss the next evolution in technology. “Ask yourself what feature of the iPhone you use that you weren’t using five years ago? Do you actually use Animoji?”
Instead of new stand-alone devices, Mr. Cook has found success building products around the iPhone, with a watch, headphones and music- and TV-subscription services.
The products disrupted markets, with the watch out-selling the entire Swiss watch industry in unit sales and AirPods accounting for nearly half of all headphones sold world-wide at the end of 2019, according to Counterpoint Research. But their combined revenue in the 2019 fiscal year of $24.5 billion was less than Apple’s peak annual sales for the iPad of $32 billion, Mr. Jobs’s last product.
My take: There are bits and pieces of good reporting here, like the story of how the caution of this “industrial engineer” put Apple two years behind in the smart speaker market. But there’s hole in the middle of the story where Tim Cook ought to be.
See also the Apple 3.0 Tripp Mickle archives.