Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion and that is truly a wonderful thing. Within the Apple blogs, Wall Street Journal Apple beat reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane is getting slammed for her new book Haunted Empire (see Philip Elmer-Dewitt’s Apple 2.0 blog). The basic premise of the book is: Apple is doomed, Steve Jobs was Apple, since his death Apple has been less innovative, and once Apple runs out of iOS, iPhone, and iPad steam, it will become a shell of it’s former glory.
In my eyes, Yukari Iwatani Kane is a very smart reporter. She knows this is the dominant storyline – myth – mantra – or whatever you want to call it in the business press and if she wants to sell a truckload of books, this is the best storyline to go with. The zealot Apple fans will go nuts, the blogosphere will blow up, and she will be on endless cable TV shows (CNBC – start warming up that chair as your talking heads LOVE this storyline) from here to eternity as she will always be called to argue against Apple. If you look at this story from her perspective, this is the most profitable angle to write an Apple book, regardless if it’s factually correct.
To be direct, I could not disagree more with the Haunted storyline. In other words, I believe in the significantly less profitable storyline and I have been writing about it for some time: Tim Cook is NOT afraid of the Ghost of Steve Jobs. For instance:
-February 7th, 2014 – Steve Jobs Was Wrong About the Beatles
“I am optimistic on Apple’s future, as I believe Cook is unafraid of ghost of Steve Jobs. While Forestall’s ousting was clearly a major indicator of Tim’s willingness to do what is best for the future of Apple, it is also a major indicator that Tim does not envision himself as just the torch carrier of Apple’s past. Beyond the October 2012 senior management shakeup, there are other indicators as well such as, Apple’s corporate social responsibility in China, the disbursement of dividends, taking on debt, and charitable giving just to name a few. Cook knows the Apple of the past cannot be the growth engine of the Apple of the future. If the rapid and radical update to iOS 7 is any indicator, I am optimistic that Apple will not be resting on its laurels in the Tim Cook era; Cook wants the tension to be healthy, the collaboration among the band leaders to be strong, and most important, the songs to be amazing for years to come.”
Similar thoughts could also be found in:
-June 27th 2013 – Apple Social Responsibility in China: An Update
-June 11th 2013 – Apple 2013 WWDC Round-Up: Welcome to the Post-Steve Jobs Era
February 26th 2013 – Is Apple Cursed? An Intriguing Conversation…
October 5th 2012 – The Legacy of Steve Jobs: One-Year Out…
All of the links above argue strongly against the premise of Haunted Empire. In fact, if a journalist were to do their homework, the biggest nugget into the psyche of Tim Cook was expressed in a 2009 quarterly earning call with financial analysts. It was Tim Cook (a full two years before he would replace Steve Jobs as CEO) who best articulated Apple’s modus operandi:
“We believe we are on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that’s not changing. We are constantly focused on innovating. We believe in the simple and not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in the job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well” (Isaacson 2011, pg. 488).
I understand that it will take much more than a few posts from a small blog like DigNuggetville to change the tide and shift the dominant logic of the business press to think differently. However, all is takes is one new product launch in 2014 – a new product that was clearly not on the drawing board during the Steve Jobs era and I expect that Haunted tide to slowly shift in the opposite direction. Luckily for Yukari Iwatani Kane, she released Haunted Empire a few months before WWDC 2014 because I have hunch that she will need brush up her debating skills.
Something to follow in 2014…
Associate Professor of Marketing
Stillman School of Business
Seton Hall University