Tim Apple gets a 3,000-word write-around in the Wall Street Journal

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.


  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    My take: “… But there’s hole in the middle of the story where Tim Cook ought to be.”

    I trust no writer, biographer or associate will ever be able to fill that hole. Choice tidbits selected from the article lend understanding that Tim Apple is a very private person.

    “…. Around Thanksgiving two years ago, guests saw him dining by himself at the secluded Amangiri Hotel near Zion National Park.”

    “…. Apple declined to make Mr. Cook or any of its executives available. Instead, the company helped arrange calls with four people it said could speak to areas of importance to Mr. Cook such as environmentalism, education and health. None of the four said they knew him well. One had never met him, another met him only in passing, a third spent half an hour with him and a fourth spent a few hours with him.”

    The tidbit I love leaving me to sleep comfortably at night with my Apple investment is the following: “…. Though current and former employees say Mr. Cook has created a more relaxed workplace than Mr. Jobs, he has been similarly demanding and detail oriented. He once got irritated that the company mistakenly shipped 25 computers to South Korea instead of Japan, said a former colleague, adding that it seemed like a minor misstep for a company shipping nearly 200 million iPhones annually. ‘… We’re losing our commitment to excellence,’ Mr. Cook said, this person recalls.”

    August 8, 2020
    • Fred Stein said:
      Nice insights. Apple did not give Tripp access because they’ve read his prior work.

      Not only is Tim missing from the ‘hole in the story’, so are all the people who understand Tim or Apple.

      Tripp could not access any worthy sources. Hello WSJ.

      August 8, 2020
  2. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    As a fellow degreed IE, like Deirdre O’Brien, I stand behind Mr.Tim Cook. How he’s steered the company, and how the value of the company & AAPL reflects that. In multiple dimensions.

    But you don’t have to be an IE to believe the same. In less than 3,000 words.

    August 8, 2020
  3. Fred Stein said:
    Save yourself some time.

    He writes one worthy quote, Tim in 2017: “..You have to be the best version of yourself.”

    August 8, 2020
  4. Bill Haymaker said:
    I’ve been comfortable with Steve’s hand picked successor ever since I read this many years ago about a problem they were experiencing with the iPod. “One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia. “This is really bad,” Cook told the group. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, “Why are you still here?”

    Khan, who remains one of Cook’s top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode. The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.”

    August 8, 2020
  5. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    After I read this, I couldn’t help but think of that line towards the end of “The Wizard of Oz”…

    “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.“

    Just the way T. Cook likes it.

    August 9, 2020

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