Adam Lashinsky: ‘How Tim Cook Is Changing Apple’

Cover story for the new issue of Fortune magazine. Good piece in many ways, backed by what was obviously a lot of reporting on Lashinsky’s part. But he’s straining to emphasize differences that just aren’t there. The more different he paints Apple under Cook, the more sensational the story. I’m certainly not arguing that nothing has changed at Apple, but the big picture is very little has changed. This is the closest Lashinsky gets to actual evidence that things have changed significantly:

If anything, Apple under Tim Cook will embrace efficiency to an even greater degree, especially as the company grows bigger and more complex — to the dismay of those who think techies should rule the roost. “It looks like it has become a more conservative execution engine rather than a pushing-the-envelope engineering engine,” says Max Paley, a former engineering vice president who worked at Apple for 14 years until late 2011. “I’ve been told that any meeting of significance is now always populated by project management and global-supply management,” he says. “When I was there, engineering decided what we wanted, and it was the job of product management and supply management to go get it. It shows a shift in priority.”

It might also simply be the result of the shift in scale at which Apple is operating today. They sold 35 million iPhones and 12 million iPads last quarter. Is it not inevitable that global-supply management would grow in importance and influence with numbers like that? The question to ask is whether these changes are because of the differences between Tim Cook and Steve, or the differences in the size and scope of Apple’s business a decade ago versus today.

I don’t think any of the changes Lashinsky describes would be any different if Steve Jobs were still alive and at the helm (with the possible exception of the stock dividend and buy-back, which don’t pertain to the company’s culture and processes).

Friday, 25 May 2012