Fortune on how Tim Cook is changing Apple

Summary:A FORTUNE cover story on Apple CEO Tim Cook tackles his leadership style (and how it differs from Steve Jobs), Facebook, product development and Apple's top-secret Top 100 meetings.

The issue of FORTUNE magazine features an in-depth report on Apple CEO Tim Cook that delves into his leadership style, how it differs from Steve Jobs, his thoughts on Facebook, Apple's product development and, for the first time, he discusses the top-secret “Top 100” meetings that Apple holds with its highest valued employees:

In mid-April the company took over the Carmel Valley Ranch hotel complex for its first ultra-secretive "Top 100" meeting since Jobs died. The hush-hush conclave is a rare opportunity for top managers -- not necessarily chosen by rank, but rather by the CEO's assessment of who are the most valuable contributors at any given time -- to learn what products and services are on tap for the next year and a half or so. Following tradition, Cook required his executives to travel the 80 miles from Cupertino to the resort on chartered buses so that their comings and goings could be controlled. He also asked several executives to make presentations to the group -- just as Jobs had done.

A difference, according to multiple secondhand reports of the retreat, is that the spirit of the meeting was upbeat and even fun. Cook was said to be in a jovial, joke-cracking mood -- a stark contrast to the grim and fearful tone Jobs engendered at the meetings. Participants left the Top 100 energized about Apple's near-term outlook, presumably having seen Apple's next iPhone and perhaps its long-awaited television product too. One veteran executive was "blown away" by what he had seen, says someone this executive spoke to afterward. Reports another person with access to top-level Apple executives: "People came away totally comfortable with where the company is headed."

FORTUNE's Adam Lashinsky details Cook's February meeting with investors where his leadership style began to emerge.

It’s a subtle but significant change—investors now have the CEO’s ear for the first time in years—and it’s one of many Cook has instituted at Apple as he approaches his one-year mark at the helm… In some cases Cook is taking action that Apple sorely needed and employees badly wanted. It’s almost as if he is working his way through a to-do list of long-overdue repairs the previous occupant (Jobs) refused to address for no reason other than obstinacy.

One investor tells FORTUNE that during the February meeting Cook "was in complete control and knew exactly who he was and where he wanted to go. He answered every question head-on and didn’t skirt any issue.”

During that February same investor meeting, Cook shared his thoughts about Facebook.

Cook called the neighboring upstart 'the one company that is closest to being like Apple,' adding that he had huge respect for Facebook, with which Apple could work more closely.

Lashinsky writes about product development under Cook and in particular, Siri:

Those looking for deficiencies have found them in Siri, a less-than-perfect product that Apple released with the rare beta label in late 2011, a signal that the service shouldn’t be viewed as fully baked. Siri’s response time has been slow, meaning the servers and software powering it are inadequate.

One former insider says to FORTUNE, “People are embarrassed by Siri. Steve would have lost his mind over Siri.”

Adam Lashinsky's cover story "How Tim Cook Is Changing Apple" is available online today and hits newsstands on Monday, May 28.

Topics: Apple

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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