Apple analyst on Tim Cook: Steve Jobs was right

Last week, we posted about Tim Cook’s angry response to a suggestion that some Apple efforts have lost focus on profitability, on return on investment (ROI):

the NCPPR representative asked Mr. Cook to commit right then and there to doing only those things that were profitable.

What ensued was the only time I can recall seeing Tim Cook angry, and he categorically rejected the worldview behind the NCPPR’s advocacy. He said that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues.

“When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind,” he said, “I don’t consider the bloody ROI.” He said that the same thing about environmental issues, worker safety, and other areas where Apple is a leader.

Cook also said, “If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.”

There was a lot of public discussion about these comments. A number of analysts questioned Apple’s strategy in not valuing profitability above all else. Amidst all the noise, this post stood out.

Technology companies that last long-term are those that are willing to take risks, invest heavily in R&D (even at the expense of short-term profits), and are willing to venture out and explore into new areas, both adjacent to the company’s core cash cow(s) as well as ideas that are far out in left field.

Now, Cook would have been impressive enough if he were simply talking about potential R&D projects that end up not bearing fruit, but in this case, he was speaking more broadly, addressing – in one shot – environmental responsibility, accessibility of Apple’s products to the disabled, as well as the general notion that not everything Apple does is done solely to maximize ROI.

That, interestingly enough, is exactly the kind of attitude that is the mark of a CEO/management team that knows how to run a rich, profitable, and growing technology company for many years to come. Companies that fail to pursue opportunities and potentially disruptive technologies, and those that fail to want to make life better/easier for others, are those without long-term vision and are – in the long-haul – probably doomed to mediocrity.

Also:

Many of the criticisms levied against Mr. Cook is that he isn’t enough like the passionate Jobs, but it’s becoming clearer that Cook’s fairly calm public image fails to convey a potentially Jobsian passion for Apple, its products, and its future. This – coupled with an understanding of what Apple is all about – is what it takes to have a shot at filling the very large shoes that Jobs left behind.

And, while the story is far from over, Cook seems to have what it takes to guide Apple through the next generation of challenges and to capitalize on the next generation of opportunities. Steve Jobs appears to have made the right choice – yet again.

These comments just clicked for me. [From Seeking Alpha, free reg-wall]



  • Drew Pitchford

    Absolutely. It always gets me how, whether with Apple execs or athletes or coaches, people think the public face they give represents who they truly are. What we see on stage and in front of cameras is a carefully rehearsed performance. How these people are day to day on the job is something none of us know. (Though I think we can guess it’s not what we see publicly.)

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

    “Steve Jobs appears to have made the right choice – yet again.”

    That, right there. Even Apple supporters seem to take their eye off that ball. While an operations genius, Jobs presumably saw many crucial qualities in Cook he thought necessary to carry Apple forward.

  • G

    The question, “What would Steve Jobs do?” is moot. He already did it.

  • Winski

    Right on the money….. Steve knew, as other real astute exec’s sometimes do, what it’s going to take to grow their business to the next stage of largess, stability, reach and human impact. Sometimes DRASTIC personality change and brilliance of a very different kind seems to be required to get passed some of the unique challenges of swinging between those limbs of the growth tree…..

    Steve and Tom being such drastic opposites is the main thing that will continue to serve Apple so well going forward….