Tim Cook, successor to the inimitable Steve Jobs, is one year into his tenure as CEO of Apple. Congrats, Tim!
Despite initial hand-wringing over the future of Apple after Jobs passed away last October, Cook seems to be doing a bang-up job by most measures. Not least among Apple's accomplishments under Cook, the company recently became the world's most valuable firm ever (nominally, at least).
Sure, there have been bumps in the road this year -- Siri, still in beta mode, turned out to be a less-than-revolutionary voice assistant for the iPhone; a New York Times report detailed Apple's shady approach to paying taxes -- but, even still, Apple fans breathlessly await the next-generation iPhone, iPad or whatever else Apple may have up its sleeve (iTV, anyone?). Of course, the real test will be if those aforementioned iProducts sell without the
Midas Jobs touch.
Given Steve Jobs' veneration, it's worth noting today that Tim Cook seems to have had more success in certain areas than did his predecessor. Flip through the gallery (below) to read about five things we think Cook is doing better than Jobs.
Apple's problem of allegedly poor working conditions at its suppliers' factories in China had been known for some time, but this year Cook actually stepped up and did something about it. After the New York Times published an expose on the human cost of manufacturing an iPad, Cook went to China to visit manufacturing sites. Steve Jobs reportedly never set foot in a Chinese factory. More substantially than a PR stunt, Cook also asked the D.C.-based Fair Labor Association to independently audit Foxconn's and other's component manufacturing facilities. Investigators found that laborers often worked more than 60 hours per week in March. Since then, Apple reportedly sketched out a timeline for having workers work sane schedules.
OK, so we can't exactly speak for every single one of Apple's 60,000 employees, but there are few indications that underlings are happier under Cook than they were under Jobs. As Fortune's Adam Lashinsky wrote of an annual retreat for top execs in April, "the spirit of the meeting was upbeat and even fun [...] a stark contrast to the grim and fearful tone Jobs engendered at the meetings." Indeed, peppered throughout Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs are many episodes of Jobs berating his workers for their incompetence. Cook, in contrast, seems like a leveler head.
Steve Jobs was many things, but "charitable" wasn't one of them. But just a week into Cook's tenure, the new CEO started a program in which Apple matches dollar-for-dollar any charitable donation made to a nonprofit, up to $10,000. Such gift-matching systems are standard at many American companies; but this was a first for Apple. To boot, Apple under Cook also gave away $50 million to Stanford hospitals. By contrast, Jobs personally didn't have any public record of giving to charity and once reportedly employees that Apple giving away money was a waste of time. Jerk moves.
This ain't exactly charity, but it is a good thing. While Jobs wasn't one to give to investors any of Apple's trucks-full of cash in the form of dividends or stock buyback, Cook is fine with it. In February, Apple issued a $2.65-per-quarter dividend and promised to buy $10 million worth in stock back from investors. In short, Cook wanted to reward investors, both big and small, for the years they'd keep their money in the company.
Of course, the most important thing for investors is the stock price itself -- and wow, it's doing fantastic. In one year, Cook has made Apple 77 percent richer. On his first day, a share of Apple was trading for $376. As as I write this, it's trading for $667. That ends up being an additional $353 billion. Of course Jobs should be credited with the upward trajectory he left the company with, but it was Cook who guided the company to that high.