Apple Leadership Bubblegum Cards

Mark Gurman put together a nice rundown of Apple’s executive leadership for Bloomberg last week. I feel like it’s better thought of (and would have been better presented) as a directory, not as a story. A who’s-who guide to Apple’s executive leadership. But Bloomberg demands a story,1 so we get one:

As Cook begins his 10th year at the helm, his management group is filled mostly with senior vice presidents who have worked at Apple for more than two decades, made tens of millions of dollars and are at or near the ages of 55 to 60 when many previous executives have stepped aside. […]

The CEO has given no indication he’s ready to retire, but if the 59-year-old Cook moved on tomorrow, look no further than Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, 57, to take over.

There’s no question that Williams is second-in-command. Now that Jony Ive is gone, Williams is the only other executive with a C-level title, and his portfolio has grown post-Ive. But because he’s effectively the same age as Cook, I don’t think we should see him as Cook’s heir apparent. If Cook plans to retire at a younger age than Williams,2 or if something unexpected happened to Cook, then yes, Williams may well be Cook’s successor, but those seem like unlikely “ifs” to me.

Most of the names in Gurman’s list could be gleaned just by observing who has gotten significant stage time — and for which products — in recent keynotes. John Ternus for hardware engineering, Kaiann Drance for iPhone product marketing, and Sebastien Marineau-Mes for software engineering, for example. But other people in Gurman’s report have been largely under the radar.

My biggest question and deepest concern regarding Apple’s leadership, especially now that Ive is gone and Phil Schiller has moved on to a fellowship with only the App Store and events on his plate,3 is whose taste is driving product development? We know the actors, we know the writers, we know the cinematographers, but who is directing? Who is saying “This isn’t good enough” — or in the words of Apple’s former director, “This is shit”? When a product decision comes down to this or that, who is making that call?

You can’t direct good movies by committee. You can’t direct good products by committee, either.

  1. Even when the story is a complete and utter fabrication↩︎︎

  2. I am reminded of the fact that Roger Moore was in fact a few years older than Sean Connery, yet went on to play James Bond more times than anyone else to date. ↩︎

  3. Also curious: Apple’s PR chief Steve Dowling announced he was leaving the company one year ago. In his exit memo, Dowling wrote “Phil will be managing the team on an interim basis starting today.” Apple still hasn’t named a replacement for Dowling, and my understanding is that Schiller is still in charge of PR. Not sure what’s going on there — a year seems like a long time to fill any position — but, this is the same company where Steve Jobs served as “interim” CEO from 1997-2000. At this point I suspect Apple might not name a new head of PR, and that team might permanently report to Greg Joswiak as SVP of marketing. ↩︎︎