Since the early days of birthing in a California garage, Apple has always be the scrappy underdog, willing to challenge not only industry giants, but the status quo. For all the genetic heritage and claims of innovation that altered the course of many technology industries, Apple of 2016 is all grown up. Apple is an adult. Apple is the status quo.
Apple under co-founder Steve Jobs’ second reign is a far different Apple than the company run by Tim Cook. This change from the tech company that personified hubris to a tech company with a conscience and a heart did not come quickly, instantly, or overnight. It’s been ongoing for years, but particularly since Steve Jobs’ illness forced him to turn over more responsibility to Cook.
The adolescent Apple was all about show and style and sizzle– Cube, Siri, Apple TV, and online commercials– and less about corporate responsibility. The adult Apple is richly blessed by the feats of the energetic, adolescent Apple, but Tim Cook approaches governance with a relish and a difference; markedly different than Jobs. Cook is an adult. So is Apple.
For example, since Jobs died in 2011, Apple has not innovated, or, rather, not disrupted much beyond Watch. Every other product line has seen steady but boring iterative improvements; the annual innovation upgrades of which the company is proud, but fewer of the market disruptive kind. Yet, the company’s product line is cleaner and greener than ever. Apple pays shareholders a dividend. Apple buys back stock. Apple has gone into debt.
Would any of that have occurred under Steve Jobs’ reign?
One of the key differences between adolescents and adults is maturity (politics aside; there are plenty of examples in today’s presidential race, including young people blindly following Bernie Sanders’ pipe dreams, while so-called adults blindly follow Donald Trump’s inane insensibilities and obvious demagoguery).
Apple has a deal with IBM. Not a pie-in-the-sky adolescent dream of Taligent but an arrangement that benefits both companies. Apple sells the hardware that IBM’s enterprise software needs.
Today’s Apple differs with yesterday’s Apple in another key area. Predictability. In years past, one never knew exactly what Apple under Jobs would do. ‘One more thing‘ was a thing. That made Apple a must follow company with legions of adoring fans. Today’s Apple followers hear the details of what’s new weeks before it’s new.
Today’s Apple has a timeline of predictability. New iOS and OS X announced in the late spring or early summer, with releases expected in the fall along with new iPhones. Under Jobs, Apple was fun to watch because it was an exciting company full of surprises; the energy irreverence and youth. Under Cook, Apple has come of age, less exciting, more responsible, and vastly more predictable.
Steve Jobs is the reason it took Apple more than 30 years to reach adulthood. Jobs never grew up. Jobs was never an adult; always the quintessential teenager with a unique combination of brilliance and foresight mixed with a brash temper and incredible insensitivity and selfishness.
If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then Tim Cook is reason Apple has grown up and entered adulthood at the ripe old age of 40. Cook pays homage to Jobs at every turn, much as an adult looks back on adolescence with fond memories, but still goes to work every day to pay the bills.