I have a secret theory that when a major biography of a major business person appears when said person is still working their career, it means their career is over. Maybe Tim will be around awhile, maybe not. But I do think Tim’s Apple legacy will show that he was a far better COO than a CEO, and that he lacked Steve’s ability to find truly great talent.
I also think that the heart of Tim Cook’s Apple legacy, his supply chain and manufacturing process prowess will be controversial. No doubt his early Apple career work was crucial to Apple’s rebirth, but it came at a price that would be paid later. The price was putting everything in the China basket instead of spreading risk for the supply chain and manufacturing, and the political risk of keeping the Chinese government happy.
When Tim Cook came to Japan in fall of 2016, BuzzFeed quoted him saying that it was his first time to Japan. Let’s look at this from 3 viewpoints.
- First visit to Japan as Apple CEO: Tim became Apple CEO in late 2011. He was undoubtedly busy after Steve Jobs passed away, but 5 years of not visiting an important market for Apple with many crucial iPhone part suppliers is weird.
- First visit to Japan in Apple career: a supply chain guru who never visits an important supply chain country that his boss visited all the time, what?
- First visit to Japan ever: does Tim have a problem with Japan?
Maybe BuzzFeed got the context wrong, or wrong altogether since it’s BuzzFeed, right? Whatever the reason, Steve Jobs was well know in Japan for coming here on business and pleasure. There is no doubt in my mind he made the decision to use, and perhaps even found, the shiny metal back case of the original iPod manufactured in a tiny factory in Niigata. Was that perfectly polished metal case important to the iPod manufacture process? Probably not. Was that case important to the success of iPod? Absolutely yes.
Tim Cook doesn’t have Steve’s gift of finding people and parts, but who does? It’s a rare thing. In the long run, Tim’s China obsession will be seen as his biggest flaw.