Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level

Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level

by Leander Kahney
Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level

Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level

by Leander Kahney


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Journalist Leander Kahney reveals how CEO Tim Cook has led Apple to astronomical success after the death of Steve Jobs in 2011.

The death of Steve Jobs left a gaping void at one of the most innovative companies of all time. Jobs wasn't merely Apple's iconic founder and CEO; he was the living embodiment of a global megabrand. It was hard to imagine that anyone could fill his shoes—especially not Tim Cook, the intensely private executive who many thought of as Apple's "operations drone."

But seven years later, as journalist Leander Kahney reveals in this definitive book, things at Apple couldn't be better. Its stock has nearly tripled, making it the world's first trillion dollar company. Under Cook's principled leadership, Apple is pushing hard into renewable energy, labor and environmentally-friendly supply chains, user privacy, and highly-recyclable products. From the massive growth of the iPhone to lesser-known victories like the Apple Watch, Cook is leading Apple to a new era of success.

Drawing on access with several Apple insiders, Kahney tells the inspiring story of how one man attempted to replace someone irreplaceable, and—through strong, humane leadership, supply chain savvy, and a commitment to his values—succeeded more than anyone had thought possible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525537601
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 244,914
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Leander Kahney, the bestselling author of Inside Steve's Brain, Jony Ive and Cult of Mac, has covered Apple for more than a dozen years. He is the former news editor of Wired.com, and now the editor of CultofMac.com.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Death of Steve Jobs

On Sunday, August 11, 2011, Tim Cook got a call that would change his life. When he picked up the phone, Steve Jobs was on the other end, asking him to come to his home in Palo Alto. At the time, Jobs was convalescing from treatment for pancreatic cancer and a recent liver transplant. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and after initially resisting treatment, he had undergone several increasingly invasive procedures to fight the disease ravaging his body. Cook, surprised by the call, asked when he should come over, and when Jobs replied, "Now," Cook knew it was important. He set off immediately to Jobs's home.

When he arrived, Jobs told Cook that he wanted him to take over as CEO of Apple. The plan was for Jobs to step down as CEO, go into semiretirement, and become the chairman of Apple's board. Even though Jobs was very sick, both men believed-or at least pretended-that he would be around for a while yet. Though he had been diagnosed several years before, he had lived for many years with the disease, refusing to slow down or step back from Apple. In fact, only a few months earlier, in the spring of 2011, he had told his biographer Walter Isaacson, "There'll be more; I'll get to the next lily pad; I'll outrun the cancer." Always determined, Jobs refused to back down or admit that his illness was serious. And at that time, he truly believed he would survive it.

For both men, Jobs's new appointment as chairman wasn't an honorary title or something to keep the shareholders happy; it was a real, honest-to-goodness job that would allow him to oversee and steer Apple's future direction. As David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times and Yahoo, wrote, "You can bet that as chairman, Mr. Jobs will still be the godfather. He'll still be pulling plenty of strings, feeding his vision to his carefully built team, and weighing in on the company's compass headings." Jobs had already left Apple once-and now that he'd made it into one of the most innovative companies in the world, he wasn't about to do so again.

As Jobs and Cook discussed CEO succession on that momentous day in August, Cook brought up Steve's "godfather" role. The pair chatted about how they'd work together in their new positions, not realizing quite how close to death Steve actually was. "I thought . . . he was going to live a lot longer," said Cook, reflecting back on the conversation. "We got into a whole level of discussion about what would it mean for me to be CEO with him as chairman," he recalled. When Jobs said, "You make all the decisions," Cook suspected something was wrong. Jobs would never have handed over the reins willingly. So Cook "tried to pick something that would incite him," asking questions like, "You mean that if I review an ad, and I like it, it should just run without your okay?" Jobs laughed and said, "Well, I hope you'd at least ask me!" Cook "asked him two or three times, 'Are you sure you want me to do this?' " He was prepared for Jobs to step back in if need be, because he "saw him getting better at that point in time."

Jobs's reply to the question about the ad was revealing. He was famously meddlesome in nature, one of the main reasons why Cook assumed he would continue to oversee Apple, even if Cook was now officially in charge of running the day-to-day-though he had largely been doing this for several years already in his role as COO, while Jobs was still CEO. And despite stepping away from all formal responsibility, Jobs did remain very much a part of the company. Cook kept him involved, going "over [to his house] often during the week, and sometimes on the weekends. Every time I saw him he seemed to be getting better. He felt that way as well." Both Jobs and Apple's PR team continued to deny that he was in ill health-no one would admit that he was close to death. But, "unfortunately, it didn't work out that way," Cook said, and Jobs's death stunned the world only a few months later.

Cook the Cipher

When it came to picking a successor to Jobs, there were rumors that the Apple board was likely to choose someone from outside the company, but this was never actually the case. The board was Jobs's board, sometimes controversially so, and they were always going to accept whomever Jobs picked for the role. Jobs wanted an insider who "got" Apple's culture, and he believed there was no one who fit the bill more perfectly than Cook, the man he had trusted to run Apple in his absence on two previous occasions.

Cook, who had been running Apple behind the scenes for so many years, was Jobs's natural successor, but to many onlookers his ascendance to the CEO position was surprising. No one outside Apple or even inside the company would have considered him a visionary, the type of leader whom Jobs had epitomized and everyone assumed Apple needed. It was widely accepted that after Jobs, the next most visionary person at Apple was not Cook but instead chief designer Jony Ive.

After all, no one else had Ive's operational power or experience-he had worked hand in glove with Jobs since the days of the first-generation iMac. Together, the pair had spent a decade and more refashioning Apple into a design-led organization. Ive had a cult status of his own, having been the face of many Apple products in promotional videos. For his design on the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Ive had won many high-profile awards, and as a consequence he was well known to the public. In contrast, Cook was a much more shadowy figure. He'd never appeared in any product videos and had presented at Apple's product launches on only a few occasions when Jobs was ill. He had given almost no interviews over his career and had been the subject of only a smattering of magazine articles (none of which he participated in). He was largely unknown.

But although some people thought Ive was in a strong position to succeed Jobs, having been so pivotal to Apple's vision and products, he had no interest in running a business. He wanted to continue designing-at Apple he had every designer's dream job: limitless resources and creative freedom. He wasn't going to sacrifice such a rare and liberating position for the management headaches that inevitably come with running an entire company.

Another possible candidate rumored by outside media pundits was Scott Forstall, an ambitious executive who was then in the role of senior vice president of iOS software. Forstall had climbed the leadership ladder at Apple with high-profile projects like Mac OS X, the software that ran the Macintosh. But his star had really risen with the smashing success of the iPhone, since he'd overseen the development of its software. Forstall had a reputation as a hard-charging and demanding executive and styled himself after Jobs, even driving the same silver Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG. Bloomberg once referred to Forstall as a "mini-Steve," so for some it was a logical assumption that he was a shoo-in for the next CEO. Apple, ever secretive, made no comment on possible successors.

For most, it was baffling that Apple would replace a visionary leader with someone who was so different in character from Jobs, almost his polar opposite. It's easy now to look at Cook's ascent to the head of the world's biggest tech company as the markings of a new era for Apple, but in 2011 it felt more like an ending than a new chapter.

"Nobody would make Tim Cook CEO," a Silicon Valley investor had told Fortune's Adam Lashinsky a few years earlier in 2008. "That's laughable. They don't need a guy who merely [gets stuff done]. They need a brilliant product guy, and Tim is not that guy. He is an ops guy-at a company where ops is outsourced." This was a harsh analysis, but there was a certain truth to it; to most people, Cook was a blank slate, notable more for what he wasn't than what he was.

But ultimately, this unexpected choice was the best for the company. Cook already had the crucial experience of running Apple and had done so effectively. He had stepped in when Jobs took two leaves of absence, in 2009 and 2011, after his initial pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2003. While Jobs was away, Cook ran Apple as chief executive, overseeing the company's day-to-day operations. He was so unlike Steve Jobs, but he had run the company successfully twice, so the board clearly felt that he would maintain Apple's long-lasting stability.

They had indicated their faith in Cook before. In 2010, as COO, he had received a hefty $58 million in salary, bonus, and other stock awards. Now, as he transitioned into the CEO role, the Apple board voted to award him with one million restricted stock options. To ensure he'd stay on as CEO for a while, half of them were scheduled to vest in August 2016, five years later. The other half were scheduled to vest after ten years, in August 2021. Apple's board was confident that Tim Cook was the CEO Apple needed.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Killing It ix

Chapter 1 The Death of Steve Jobs 1

Chapter 2 A Worldview Shaped BY the Deep South 17

Chapter 3 Learning the Trade at Big Blue 17

Chapter 4 A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity to Join a Wear-Bankrupt Company 55

Chapter 5 Saving Apple Through Outsourcing 73

Chapter 6 Stepping into Steve Jobs's Shoes 87

Chapter 7 Finding His Feet with Hot New Products 115

Chapter 8 A Greener Apple 141

Chapter 9 Cook Fights the Law, and Wins 163

Chapter 10 Doubling Down on Diversity 185

Chapter 11 Robot Cars and the Future of Apple 211

Chapter 12 Apple's Best CEO? 229

Acknowledgments 239

Notes 241

Index 289

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