Apple CEO Tim Cook talked Chinese working conditions, potential for a dividend, Apple TV and product cannibalization at a Goldman Sachs investment conference, but the biggest news may have been about the speaker himself.
Simply put, Cook is the right person at the right time for Apple. Apple and Cook are simply more likeable to me.
As I'm listening to Cook's chat Tuesday with Rachel King who was on scene, it hit me that it's hard not to root for the CEO a bit. The New York Times' Nick Wingfield said Apple revealed Cook as its latest product. I believe the opposite. Apple revealed that it has moved beyond the CEO as product mentality. Let's face it: Steve Jobs was a product. Jobs had a cult of personality. He had disdain for many things and would have never talked before an investor conference.
Cook comes off as the anti-Jobs in many respects. He's not all that flashy. He's a supply chain wonk. He doesn't have all the answers, but is open to crazy ideas like a dividend of some sort. And he's pretty forthcoming as Tuesday's Goldman Sachs talk showed.
Why does this matter? Cook's approach, tone and personality will be better for Apple at this point in its history. The company is going to be a target on multiple fronts. For starters, Apple is getting singled out for its China supply chain conditions even though pretty much everything you own worked through the same production steps. And then there's the inevitable regulatory issues. Naturally, there's a lot of competition.
Cook can manage through those wild cards better than Jobs would have. It's hard to imagine Jobs walking through the supply chain flap and coming off well. Congressional hearings? Forget about it. Jobs would have been a mess. Cook can juggle those hand grenades. Apple under Jobs had this religious aura and army of fanboys was created. Under Cook, the vibe is different.
Oh sure, Cook is competitive as hell and that's good. Cook also said that Apple will be all about great products. But there's also something more there. Cook is making his own way and Apple will evolve---just in time given that it’s going to be targeted immensely.
On the money front, Cook's approach will also help Apple in business tech---a space that's going to be huge for the company. Enterprise IT guys would cringe at Apple's hipper-than-thou customers---there's something to those Samsung ads folks---but Cook is one of them. He's a former IBMer. Cook isn't all about the showboating. That carries well.
Bottom line: Cook isn't magnetic in a product keynote, but he's doing the CEO gig his way. That way---a little bit of humble when you're running the most successful tech company on earth---is going to be a huge asset for Apple going forward.