Apple CEO Tim Cook has been making the media rounds as he winds up his first full year on the job and it's worth noting that the world's most valuable company has changed a good bit.
Following an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, here are my five top takeaways about Cook's 2012.
Apple is more transparent. Cook spent a lot of time talking in his BusinessWeek interview about supply chain transparency. The company is tracking all the way down to the mines. Cook also realizes that there will be supply chain issues that surface. He's also bringing back some manufacturing to the U.S. The supply chain, Cook's specialty, is one area Apple has opened up. Apple's transparency isn't perfect, but it is more than other companies do. Meanwhile, Cook has been more accessible, started a dividend and has made Apple more approachable.
Cook will be dogged by Steve Jobs' shadow until there's a new hit designed in his era. Obviously, Cook talked a bit about products. He even hinted a bit at an Apple TV. But the reality is that Cook isn't seen as an artist in the way Jobs was. However, Cook has cast his product design lot with Jony Ive. Nice move. Cook said in the Bloomberg BusinessWeek interview:
Jony [Ive, senior vice president of industrial design], who I think has the best taste of anyone in the world and the best design skills, now has responsibility for the human interface. I mean, look at our products. (Cook reaches for his iPhone.) The face of this is the software, right? And the face of this iPad is the software. So it’s saying, Jony has done a remarkable job leading our hardware design, so let’s also have Jony responsible for the software and the look and feel of the software, not the underlying architecture and so forth, but the look and feel.
I don’t think there’s anybody in the world that has a better taste than he does. So I think he’s very special. He’s an original.
Collaboration matters. Cook's move to reshuffle Apple's executive team under Ive illustrates the need for more collaboration. Cook placed a high value on collaboration, but it's easier said than done in a large company. Jury is out on this one.
The Samsung mess will be sorted out. Cook said the Samsung litigation is messy and even awkward. However, Apple's patent deal with HTC indicates that the company will bargain. Regarding Samsung, Cook noted that Apple has compartmentalized its relationship with its Korean rival and supplier.
For years we have worked with people who we also compete with. I mean, Microsoft is an example. They provide Office, and so they’re a developer-partner, but they’re also a competitor. Intel is a partner on the Mac, but they are obviously trying to get into the mobile business. So it’s not different for us. It’s not unique. It’s not the first time where we have competed and cooperated. This is something that we get up every day doing. The thing that is different is the added litigation burden. I hope this works out over time.
Cook is likeable, but it's unclear whether that's enough. Apple under Cook has had its quarterly misses---note that the company makes gobs of money regardless. But at some point the financial tide---and kiss of death that is being the world's most valuable company---turns. The real test will for Cook will come when Wall Street or customers turn on Apple. Wall Street is most likely to come first.