Over on Facebook, my pal Jaga Aquino posted an article by Steve Blank. Blank argues:
The problem is that a supply chain CEO who lacks a passion for products and has yet to articulate a personal vision of where to Apple will go is ill equipped to make the right organizational, business model and product bets to bring those to market.
I, of course, wanted to contest this very reductive view of Tim Cook, who, by most (if not all) metrics, is the perfect successor to Steve Jobs, and is perfectly equipped to lead Apple for the foreseeable future.
So I did:
1. Zero basis for Cook lacking a passion for products — it’s probably only because he’s being compared to Jobs. Or Phil Schiller. Or he’s simply not a super charismatic rock star CEO like so many try to be
2. He/Apple has totally articulated his personal vision of where Apple will go concerning the products that exist (Siri, HomeKit, etc.). See WWDC ’16 and the past few Financial Results conference calls (including the one this morning) when asked about Apple’s direction in the impending AI battle. (tl;dr — Effective AI AND protection of privacy is their mission statement)
Except unlike Google/Amazon, he/Apple only gives enough of the vision that is relevant to products that actually exist—products Cook supposedly lacks passion for. The rest of the grand vision that Blank thinks is missing (aside from that which he simply ignores), Cook keeps close to his chest. Because they never talk about products they don’t have.
(I will say that their execution on AI is sorely lacking, and that Google and Amazon are probably about to eat Apple’s lunch.)
But Steve did exactly the same thing. He was even worse, because he’d often relay exactly the opposite grand vision before he (or Apple) would flip over and offer an unexpected product (see iPod nano, iPod video, iPad mini, larger iPhones).
Of course if Blank acknowledges this, it weakens his argument. So I guess I understand.
Jaga responded, and then I responded, and now we’re having a very long (civil) conversation about the Cook/Jobs-Ballmer/Gates analogy, the future of Apple, and the meaning of “innovation”. It’s a very good discussion, and if you can, follow the fun on Facebook.
Otherwise, wait for my summary, which I will post here when our debate reaches its conclusion.
(Unless he thoroughly trounces and humiliates me.)