The New York Times Sunday profile of Tim Cook

I found this profile frustrating, vexing. The tone is objective, but the prose manages to be damning at the same time, working in all the standard, shopworn stereotypes the Apple community has gotten used to having thrown their way.

Mr. Cook, who is 53, took over leadership of Apple nearly three years ago, after the death of Steve Jobs, the company’s revered founder. Like Walt Disney and Henry Ford, Mr. Jobs was intertwined with his company. Mr. Jobs was Apple and Apple was Jobs.

There’s this sense that Tim Cook is an empty shirt. I don’t have a problem reflecting on Steve Jobs and comparing Tim Cook’s approach to Steve’s. But there’s an undertone of snark to this profile, very well hidden. Except that it rises to the top in the title of one particular section, taken from this quote:

Mr. Brown’s colleague Chad Zeluff, 27, who saw Mr. Jobs deliver the keynote in 2007, put it this way: “Jobs is to Lennon what Cook is to Ringo.”

Leaving the question of Ringo Starr’s talent off the table, the comment is intended as a straight-out insult. Where’s the balance in posting a single negative quote? And then promoting that quote to a headline status to make it more prominent.

Consider this:

Ryan Scott, the chief executive of Causecast, a nonprofit that helps companies create volunteer and donation programs, called Mr. Cook’s charitable initiatives a “great start.” But Mr. Scott added that its programs are “not as significant as what other companies are doing.” Apple’s ambitions “could be much higher,” he said, given its money and talent. By comparison, Microsoft says that, on average, it donates $2 million a day in software to nonprofits, and its employees have donated over $1 billion, inclusive of the corporate match, since 1983. In the last two years, Apple employees have donated $50 million, including the match.

At first blush, this appears to be a crushing inditement of Tim Cook’s charitable initiatives. But the measurement is of employee gifts, not Apple’s. Apple matches in exactly the same way as Microsoft. More to the point, the author includes two numbers in the comparison, $1 billion for Microsoft versus $50 million for Apple. That is a huge difference, indeed. But let’s do a little math. That $1 billion was given over 31 years and is a self-reported number. The Apple number is over 2 years and no source for the number is given. Do that math and you’ll find that the numbers are much closer. To be truly objective, you’d really need to know the Microsoft donation numbers over the same 2 year period as the quoted Apple numbers.

Is Tim Cook perfect? No, of course not. But this article misses the point entirely. Take a few minutes and read this piece by John Gruber, entitled Only Apple. To me, this piece really captured the spirit of Apple under Tim Cook.

During the keynote last week, John Siracusa referenced The Godfather, quipping:

Today Tim settles all family business.

I’d say it’s more that Cook settled the family business back in October 2012. Last week’s keynote was when we, on the outside, finally saw the results. Apple today is firing on all cylinders. That’s a cliché but an apt one. Cook saw untapped potential in a company hampered by silos.


Jobs was a great CEO for leading Apple to become big. But Cook is a great CEO for leading Apple now that it is big, to allow the company to take advantage of its size and success. Matt Drance said it, and so will I: What we saw last week at WWDC 2014 would not have happened under Steve Jobs.

I couldn’t agree more.

  • rogifan

    I felt exactly the same way as you Dave when reading that article. And to think MacRumors forum members are calling it a puff piece. Sheesh.

    • rattyuk

      When was the last time NYT wrote anything positive about Apple? Probably nothing since the departure of Pogue and pretty sure Apple were on the hanging tree well before that.

      • rogifan

        Unfortunate that Apple allowed Ive to speak to them. But at least his comments did provide some balance.

        • rattyuk

          I don’t think Apple did. I think they got the Ive quotes from elsewhere.

          BTW this is fucking Brian X Chen we’re talking about the guy who said this back in the day:

          So he’s pretty pissed off that Japan actually went and embraced the iPhone despite his “prediction”

          The guy is a moron.

          • rogifan

            Well I’d love to know where the quotes came from because this is the first I’ve seen them and it’s not like Ive frequently does interviews.

  • BGC

    The piece was hanging on to the last thread of confirmation bias they could justify without making an outmost fool of themselves. There is zero obligation to be an Apple devotee, especially not for a journalist supposed to write on the subject. In return the same journalist is supposed to deliver a profile here, not carefully interwoven prejudice and resentment. Of course, if I’d be the NYT, I’d feel the sting to write especially about Tim Cook and Apples effort regarding the improvement of work conditions, or anything else positive. There’s also a factual error – Apple is not a company shipping jobs overseas. As Steve Jobs already said to Barrack Obama – those (specific iPhone assembly, cast makers, supply chain…) jobs where never in the US in the first place. Considering the assembly just cost them a handful of dollars (make it two hands), it’s not about making a buck and a half more, but about having a supply chain infrastructure in place that just does not exist in the backyard of the NYT building. The matter of tax evasion is also laughable. Seeing how Tim Cook is getting grilled for giving a tiny tiny piece back to society without ROI, I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams the amount of taring and feathering he’d face if he’d start to pay more taxes voluntarily (as opposed to growing the balance sheet). It’s not Apples fault tax loopholes exist and as soon as they’ll cease to exist it’s not their obligation anymore to use them. I think it’s important not to forget that Apple is not a charitable non profit organisation. So there dear NYT writer, even you cannot have it both ways.

  • EdisonCarter

    Ouch. The donation figures are particularly manipulative. I wish someone would compare “donations” to the press as well. I’m sure Microsoft would get very high on the list.

    These attacks do seem to be getting more subtle, I guess the “apple doomed”, “rotten apple” or the classic “I’m an Apple fanboy and have the iPhones…. but Apple is evil because [insert gripe here]” writing style of recent past were becoming too obvious.

  • I still remember that utter nonsense book Apple the Haunted Empire, it had an objective to say negative and through that increase reviews from both so called pro-Apple and anti-Apple guys. Irrespective of shitty stuff she wrote then and NYT now, they all get what they wanted – click-bait and page views. Confirmation bias oriented perspective is like armpit opinion, always stinky! Of course Apple and Tim Cook are not ideal and perfect in everything, but they do a better job than the most in business.

  • “But there’s an undertone of snark to this profile.”

    Look who it was written by. ‘Nuff said.

  • John

    I wonder if Brian X Chen is still waiting for Apple to jump on the netbook bandwagon. Or has Apple missed that opportunity? 😉

  • John

    Wasn’t Brian X Chen the guy who didn’t fact check the Francisco “I created the mobile Safari” Tolmasky story?

  • John

    Just a darn second there. Isn’t Brian X Chen the dude who swore up and down that Steve Jobs wasn’t going to return to Apple in 2009 and later launch the iPad? You never need fact check a story like that.

  • John

    Is Brian X Chen still waiting for Apple to put plastic backs on their iPhones so they can jump on the NFC train? Which they’ve clearly missed…

  • John

    Just hold on a darn second there, isn’t Brian X Chen the guy who reported that Apple was cutting back on their iPhone 5 production? With no source, or no numbers, or even a followup?

  • jiminstl

    “Microsoft says that, on average, it donates $2 million a day in software to nonprofits…” $2 M IN SOFTWARE. Hard to spend software. What would be the discounted price?

  • Dave Brandt

    It’s sad to see that the NYT has reduced itself to this. Its one thing to see a smear attack from some lightweight link-bait site, but one would hope that the NYT had the ability to remember who it once was. They published the “Pentagon Papers.” This was as important and courageous an act as the NSA revelations are today. To take on LBJ and the entire Vietnam war effort took a level of integrity that those clowns don’t even grasp. The owner of the Times personally made the call. My hunch is that the NYT, the WSJ, and the few others who are still members of the Dead Tree Club have recognized that Apple is disrupting their own business. They are pissed and are fighting back the only way they know.

    • DanielSw

      Not really sad. Typical. I’m amazed at how many people still read that rag. It should have been dead and buried long ago.

      • matthewmaurice

        This reminds me of Fox “News” where they report, what are ostensibly, facts that only serve to confirm whatever previously-held opinions of their audience and/or create controversy to increase their exposure. Mainstream Media really has no journalism anymore, just infotainment masquerading as news.

  • dr.nono

    Well Tim Cook does want friendlier PR Director. May be he could get NYT run sponsored article for fee.

  • Yellow Submarine

    The Ringo comparison is interesting. I’m sure they mean it to be mocking, but if you think about it Ringo was a much better drummer than John ever would have been. In other words, Tim has different strengths from Steve. And WWDC2104 showed that Apple has enough talent to pull off an amazing keynote without Steve.

    • DanielSw

      Good point. Apple is now a juggernaut with plenty of talent and capable leadership to carry it forward far into the future. Many thanks to Steve. His spirit lives on strongly, but he’s gone. Let’s all move on with vigor and success!

  • Scott Falkner

    Tim Cook because CEO two months before Steve Jobs’s death. This is not a small distinction. As phrased, the article suggests Mr. cook inherited the position, regardless of experience or merit. In reality he had been groomed for the position for years, has spent quite some time as acting CEO in Mr. job’s absence, and had the full support of the board of directors when Mr. Jobs retired.

  • matthewmaurice

    I find the Walt Disney reference especially indicative of the authors’ cluelessness. One of the things Jobs specifically instructed Cook about was NOT to let Apple be like WDC after Walt’s death when everyone was paralyzed from asking themselves “What would Walt do?” Jobs definitely didn’t want anyone at Apple asking “WWSD?”

  • Terry Maraccini

    Jim, It’s a hit piece. That’s ok. It was written by Brian Chen, hitmeister supreme at the Times.

    It insults Ringo. Wrong on many levels. Ringo was the should of the Beatles. Does any of the percussion on any post-beagle project measure up in inventiveness to anything Ringo did?”

    Maybe Tim Cook could join the remaining two Beatles. that way, this reporter will only have to lie about one thing.

  • Moeskido

    Well, that’s another NYT article I don’t need to see.