Tim Cook is the Michael Corleone of Apple


Tim Cook

It has been just over 4 months since Steve Jobs died. Since then, Apple continues to head in the right direction financially and has seen very little in the way of slowing down its development of products. Tim Cook, the CEO, has not had many public appearances since then and the ones he has had have been short, but that changed yesterday during an engagement at a Goldman Sachs conference.

Cook, who has been handling investor-relations for a long time due to Steve Jobs’ desire to not engage with (or talk to, or be associated with, or be in the same room with) the people with money who relied on Apple to make more of it. At yesterday’s event, Cook continued the tradition from a higher level than before and did not disappoint.

There was very little kept off the table during the discussion with much of it focused during the question/answer session on Apple’s attitude on workplace conditions overseas. Many of Apple’s partners have come under scrutiny in the last 3 weeks as child labor, long work hours, and poor conditions were highlighted.

Cook did not shy away and came prepared with good answers and better actions.

According to Nick Wingfield of the NY Times, “Mr. Cook said Apple had no tolerance for suppliers that violate Apple’s labor and human rights standards. He called the use of under-age labor ‘abhorrent’ and said that although it occurred rarely among Apple’s partners, its complete elimination was a ‘top priority’ for the company.”

Apple will ramp up monitoring and reporting efforts to bring Foxconn an other partners in line with their expectations how their iPhones, iPads, and other devices are being made and by whom. They are using 3rd-party groups to perform inspections that will be reported publicly every month.

In the past, such reports were annual.

“We know people have a very high expectation of Apple,” Cook said. “We have an even higher expectation of ourselves. Our customers expect us to lead and we will continue to do so.”

Changing of the guard

Michael Corleone

Nobody doubts that Steve Jobs had a combination of passion, innovation, and creativity that helped to build the technology empire that continues to shape the world. His vision and leadership will be missed by his company and fans for years to come, but Steve Jobs was not Apple. He was the head (and in recent years, the figure head) of company that is dedicated to excellence.

Some have wondered if Tim Cook would be able to do the same. He can’t.

Luckily for Apple, its investors, and consumers around the world, he doesn’t have to. In fact, it’s probably better that he doesn’t try to be Steve Jobs or even like him. The days of needing Steve Jobs to build Apple are behind them.

This is where I pull out some Godfather analogies.

Vito Corleone built his empire in ways that Michael Corleone couldn’t. He was strong, fearless, and faced turmoils in ways that his son would likely not have been able to face. Before he passed, he left decisions up to Michael to lead the family and make moves to keep it together and flourishing. From there, Michael continued to grow the family business into other endeavors and new frontiers.

The same could be said for the relationship between Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. Adversity was the 90s for Apple and nobody other than Steve Jobs could have taken them from where they were to where they are today. Now that the competition is minimal and the battles are being fought for domination rather than survival, Cook may be better suited to face the new challenges.

When a company is as large as Apple, investors must be addressed. Jobs didn’t want to deal with them and this hurt the company a bit. Not much – the feelings towards Jobs were positive despite his unrequited adoration – but there were those who were turned off by a man who often made decisions from emotion rather than firm financial strategies.

Today, Apple has enough cash on hand to buy a small country. How they handle that cash with investors through buybacks and other incentives can potentially strengthen the company and solidify the future as challengers continue to rise to fight them directly. Michael ran the family differently than Vito. Tim will run the company differently than Steve.

In both cases, it’s for the best.

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