Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

Summary: Apple CEO Tim Cook has a bevy of challenges ahead with brain drain and the pressure to find new product hits being top of the list.


Apple CEO Tim Cook has had an eventful week. He took over the reins from Steve Jobs, who resigned as chief executive, but became chairman. Now the fun really begins.

In the immediate future, Apple's to-do list is clear: Launch iPhone 5, roll out devices to more consumers and churn out iPads. However, those milestones are all short term and should be accomplished relatively easily given Cook's supply chain prowess. The longer-term picture will present a series of key management challenges.

Here's a look at the challenges facing Cook:

Brain drain. As noted previously, Apple has a deep management bench, but it's unclear how well Cook can retain talent. Will Jobs' loyalists leave? Cook has led Apple repeatedly so it's not like he's some outsider. What's unclear is whether Apple has the management talent that runs three to four people deep.

It's worth noting that Cook calmed the waters so Apple employees don't freak. The plan for now is Jobs' plan. Cook said:

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple’s unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

Also: With Jobs gone as CEO, Apple's management bench enters the spotlight

A tough act to follow and impossible expectations. Cook is following co-founder Jobs, who is basically identified with Apple. That's a daunting task. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting look on what happens when company founders split. The picture is mixed. Wal-Mart moved forward. Ford stumbled. Disney was in neutral for a decade. Microsoft's Bill Gates to Steve Ballmer hand off has worked ok, but it hasn't been smooth by any stretch as the software giant fell behind Apple. It remains to be seen if Cook forges his own identity or is seen as a mind the store type. Also: CNET: A look at new CEO Tim Cook

Finding that next big thing. As noted previously, Apple's roadmap is pretty much set for the next few years. Jobs will be chairman, have creative say and Apple's team will carry out the future roadmap. At some point, however, Apple will need its next category killer and Cook will be leading that charge. Many analysts point to TVs as Apple's next product.

Jason Perlow argued that Apple's structure makes it harder to weather failures. On the other hand, Microsoft's relatively hands off product management creates spectacular failures---Kin---but also enables the company to rebound elsewhere---Kinect.

Developing new markets. Apple remains a very consumer focused company, but there is a saturation point. Exhibit A of a saturated market is the MP3 player. Everyone has an iPod. Apple could also reach market saturation with the iPhone and iPad. That's a nice problem to have, but a little diversity couldn't hurt. One obvious segment for Apple is the enterprise. It's worth noting that Cook is the one talking about corporate uses for Apple wares on conference calls going back four years. CNET: What might Apple look like in three years?

Keeping the edge. Given Apple's ecosystem, products and design lead complacency cannot be ruled out. With Jobs as chairman, Apple isn't likely to ease up. However, Jobs is likely to recede to the background at some juncture. From there, we'll see what Apple really becomes. Companies with dominating positions always have blind spots. Intel is still struggling with mobile. Microsoft also missed the mobile curve. Google is expanding everywhere, but wrestles with social and other categories. Apple will be no different.


See more coverage around our network: CBS NewsCNET News.comTechRepublicBNET

Topics: Mobility, Apple, CXO, Hardware, IT Employment

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  • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

    Cook should drop its android lawsuits to gain good will from the community and the open source OSX.
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

      @The Linux Geek - I agree ... I mean, Apple is in dire need of goodwill from its customer base, right?
    • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

      @The Linux Geek - OS X is founded on FreeBSD.

      It's 90% open source.

      The rest of it is the API and some aspects of the GUI.
  • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

    Wow, surprised no one else has picked up this story.... Sounds like Apple is going after HP.,21207/
    • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead


      The Onion? You know that's satire, right?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

      @LYU370 Cylon Centurion is absolutely right, I can't read that article and think it's serious. Hilarious? Absolutely. Real news? Meh.
      Non-techie Talk
  • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

    For starters, Cook should bring back the matte screen for the iMac and Cinema Display monitors. It is totally ridiculous that in Apple entire range, there are no matte anti-glare desktop monitors. Fact is, many people need matte, non-glare monitors for their work. Not everyone, but many. It was just pig-headedness by Steve Jobs alone that kept the matte screen off the iMac. It's now 4 years since Apple deleted the matte screen from all its desktop products. See the continuing petition at <a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a></a></a> - it's not something that is going to go away. Some people just get headaches and eyestrain from reflective screens, particularly those people who use their screens for working many hours a day - as opposed to checking a few emails, Facebook and watching movies at night. Steve Jobs, for all his genius, was obstinate. He got it right most times, but when he missed, nothing could change him except public outcry and potential for mass-media humiliation, like the iPhone antena issue. But he just refused to listen in many other cases. The matte screen is not like other tech features that eventually die a natural tech death because of obsolescence. The need for matte screens is because some people - not all, but some - have eyesight that is strained by glare and reflection, and that sort of problem does not go away because Steve Jobs says so. And it's not a small population that wants matte screens. Recent polls by Which? Magazine in the UK, and PCPro magazine indicate around 75-89% of polls want matte screens. It is an indication of Steve Jobs' arrogance that Apple has thus far refused to listen for 4 years, in spite of calls from petitions and even Apple media writers, even on this website. In deference to Steve Jobs, perhaps you need a healthy dose of arrogance to be a genius that can build the world's most valuable company. Steve Jobs used to say that he just focused on making great products, and Apple could not please everyone -- but having a glossy-only screen that caused eyestrain and headaches for a substantial minority of users - with respect to SJ - is NOT a good product. It is bad engineering; and Steve's "we-gotta-fous" attitude caused him to block his ears from people with genuine need for non-reflective screens. To see examples of this bad engineering, go to the petition at and search the close to 1,800 petitions for the words - eyestrain, migrane, migraine, headache. This is where Apple's focus became a blindspot. Apple thought that the great iMac sales vindicated that everyone loves glossy screens; but, take me for instance, I hate glossy screens - but I continue with Apple because of the brilliance and stability of OSX. I submit that the great sales of iMacs are not BECAUSE everyone loves glossy screens but in spite of it. Look, I am not saying that matte screens are for everyone, so don't come and say how great glossy screens are. Hear me: glossy screens are great for some circumstances, and some people, but not all. And that is why Apple's insistence on making the iMac glossy-only has reeked of, there is no other word for it: arrogance.
  • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

    I see this all the time on these ZDNet blogs. People coming on here and spounting off about how stupid Apple and Steve Jobs are for not doing this or that. Yeah, they're real stupid. I wish I was as stupid as them, just the most successful company around right now, with more money (reportedly) than the federal government.
    You don't like glossy monitors? Don't buy one. I think that Apple makes all the right decisions, one of them being not trying to be everything to everybody, or a product version for every imaginable want.

    If, as you said, you just gotta have a Mac, then I guess you gotta take the good with the bad. As far as the monitor thing goes, you do know that you can connect your Mac to an external monitor, right? You also have brightness and gamma adjustments to customize your view.

    I have a Mac Book Pro connected to a View Sonic monitor, not because I don't like glossy screens, but its bigger. I don't like matte screens. If your claim that almost 90% of the people polled want a matte screen, you can be sure that is what Apple would be making. But I don't believe it. Nobody I know likes matte screens.
    • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

      @Serton <br>How old are you, and do you use your Mac for work, i.e. using it for up to 16 hours per day, staring at the screen non-stop?<br><br>If not - if you want to find people who like matte screens - ask someone outside your age range, and ask someone who uses them for work, and who works LONG hours on a Mac.<br><br>To find the PCPro poll - which had a 75% matte preference, search google for - PCPro matte poll<br><br>And lastly, do you use your glossy Mac in a sun-filled room with windows on 2 or 3 sides of the room, with the Mac in the brightest part of the room. As said, glossy screens are great in some circumstances. I've used a glossy iMac in a room where the screen is perpendicular to the window - and the glossy screen is SUPERB. But in a situation where you cannot adjust the screen to minimize glare, the glossy screen is horrific. As said, different circumstances mean glossy screens can either be superior or woeful. That's why we need a choice.<br><br>And don't suggest I just shift the location of my Mac, since some office workers can't do that. They have to sit where they're told.
    • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

      @Serton - maybe if the federal Government stopped handing out taxpayer-funded subsidy to large corporations (which includes, surprise surprise, Apple)... or even tax cuts... or bail out banks only to get its credit rating dropped by one of the rating entities (which was also said to applaud Bush's home downpayment act and what eventually ended up as toxic loans...)

      Not to mention,

      Apple supported that. Still does. They're for-profit, so they will cut down costs, regardless of consequences. Why have only 30% margin of profit on the sale of a MacBook Pro when they can have a 55% margin by using, yes, slave labor.

      1. the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune
      2. the subjection of a person to another person, esp in being forced into work
      3. the condition of being subject to some influence or habit
      4. work done in harsh conditions for low pay

      The US may have abolished slavery (or at least gave the appearance) of having done so, but it's alive and well... and freely exploited.
      • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead


        You do know that this "Apple Suicide Factory" has a lower suicide rate than the Chinese average, right?

        Did you know that the suicide rate for Foxconn is also lower than the US average?

        "Slave" is also the wrong word since employees there are not prisoners. You may find the conditions poor, but the reason they are there is because, plain and simple, it is better than their other options.
  • If I had to guess, Cook is probably NOT ...

    ... the second-largest stockholder in Apple either. Steve Ballmer is indeed the second largest stockholder at Microsoft, which gives him a great deal of power and credibility (despite his occasional buffoonery).

    Tim Cook maybe be well-known at Apple but who outside of the company has ever heard of him. He will have to prove himself to stockholders.
    M Wagner
  • Should New Apple CEO PLay the Enterprise Card (Again)?

    When Apple launched the Mac in 1984 they wanted to go after the corporate market. I know because I was hired as a consultant to help them understand what they would need to do. Apple wanted the corporate market but it was never willing (or perhaps able) to do what was needed to succeed in that lucrative but demanding setting. I consulted to Apple for more than 10 years but they never really made themselves into corporate vendors.

    Today they have a better chance than ever to succeed. Apple products are now mainstream and could be very appealing to the corporate buyer. But Apple will have to be willing to enter into direct relationships and commit to the support and vision the corporate world demands. It will be a whole new world for them if they choose to take it on and succeed!
  • RE: Apple CEO Tim Cook: A look at his biggest hurdles ahead

    You guys that work for this publication are lucky. If print media was still the primary source of information for consumers, you would've wasted plenty of ink on this "clueless" article.