Can Apple, though socking away billions in sales of iPhones and iPads, be the disruptor and industry leader of old? Without the radical sensibilities of Steve Jobs, it seems unlikely.
According to former Wall Street Journal and Reuters reporter Kane, the last three years of Apple’s existence have been less than inspiring. It’s not that CEO Tim Cook is a poor leader: The late Steve Jobs, the true visionary behind the company, handpicked him for his abilities, and if he’s not a world-changer, Cook is at least stable. (Apparently, to trust Kane, he also shares Jobs’ talent for summoning up vein-bulging, free-floating rage at the slightest provocation.) Though Kane dwells too much on Apple as it was when Jobs lived, she points to some ongoing problems that Jobs might have dealt with differently from Cook: for one, the appalling conditions under which Apple products are made in Chinese plants, and for another, the reputation-diminishing release of not-ready-for-prime-time products such as Maps and Siri (“Siri’s problems may not have been Cook’s fault, but how had he allowed the same pattern to repeat itself with maps, which fell squarely under his watch?”). Overall, it seems self-evident that without Jobs’ peculiar blend of devotion to both technological superiority and sheer beauty, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s view is the correct one: Apple “will not be nearly so successful because he’s gone.” Yet, by an accident of timing, Kane’s book anticipates but largely misses the buoying success of iOS 7, Mavericks, the latest iteration of the iPhone, the iPad Air and other products that have kept Apple’s fortunes from sliding as dramatically as Microsoft’s after Bill Gates stepped down as CEO in 2000.
Much of this book is an extended footnote to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, which, though not without problems, is the first work to consult when thinking of things Apple.