Will the new CEO sustain the magic of the super brand?
All eyes will be on Apple CEO Tim Cook today as he steps on stage at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center. He is expected to unveil the iPhone 5 after months of leaks and speculation about the latest iteration of Apple’s flagship device. And it’s not just consumers who are waiting with bated breath. So, apparently, is the entire U.S. economy.
But the real story may turn out to be Cook himself. Since he took over as CEO following Steve Jobs’ death last year, there have been persistent questions about how the iPhone and iPad-maker might change under his stewardship. So far, Cook has established himself as an extremely capable replacement. Under his watch, sales have continued to climb and Apple’s shares have soared more than 75%, making Apple the world’s most valuable company – ever.
Yet, for all of that, most would agree that some of the magic appeared to die with Jobs. For consumers, at least, there has been a notable lack of things to get truly excited about lately. The iPhone 4S was widely viewed as more of product update as opposed to an Apple-style breakthrough. The same goes for the latest iPad. Instead, headlines during the past year have focused more on run-of-the-mill corporate activities, ranging from Cook’s decision to pay dividends to shareholders (Jobs preferred to hoard cash) to Apple’s high-profile patent lawsuit fight with Samsung and its ongoing war with Google. Suddenly, Apple is starting to look like just another giant company, albeit an incredibly successful one.
Of course, it’s not like Apple under Jobs wasn’t run like a big corporation. It was. And much of what Apple is now doing was set in motion by Jobs himself—particularly the lawsuits. The difference, though, is that Jobs had an uncanny ability to make people forget about the more mundane side of Apple’s corporate activities, and focus instead on the company’s wondrous products—the famous “reality distortion field” at work. It was a key ingredient to Apple’s success.
Many are now waiting to see whether Cook can pull off the same trick.