Why It's Time For Tim Cook To Step Down


OPINION


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When is Tim Cook going to realize that the house Steve Jobs built needs an innovative leader and tell the board of directors it needs to go out and find just that individual, at which point he will step aside?

The further we get from Jobs' leadership, the less exciting Apple's brand gets. It's to the point now where customers are accepting of mediocrity in development. What's truly amazing is that the Jobs halo has lasted this long and the company has been able to do this well without introducing a single new innovative product since his death.

Sure, Apple has a music streaming service now — something that came after Jobs — but it's a catch-up to Pandora and Spotify with nothing truly different.

Yes, it introduced the Apple Watch after Jobs died, but that was developed under Jobs and merely released after his passing. More importantly, it hasn't been a barnburner product.

Cook these days seems more intent on weighing in on political issues (something Jobs never did) than driving innovation. Jobs stayed out of politics because it's a distraction and CEOs of major corporations don't need distractions, let alone run the risk of turning customers who disagree against you. It's not worth it. While no one ever really expected Cook to be Jobs, what we did expect is that he would surround himself with people who would make up for his weaknesses in the visionary areas that Jobs was so good at. But that has not happened.

What many also expected was that he might focus on areas that Jobs did not seem to worry too much about, such as putting the cash the company holds to good use. But that hasn't happened either.

Instead, the best he has been able to muster are slight and not terribly innovative improvements to the iPhone. The world, of course, is supposed to wait for the 10-year anniversary to be wowed by more incremental improvements that others already have brought to market.

Unfortunately, Apple is slowly but surely becoming a mediocre company that is holding on to its past successes. At some point, it needs to push the market forward with the type of innovation that brought us the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad and other great products, and I just don't see it happening under Cook.

More worrisome is that he must be stifling innovation in some way because as brilliant as Jobs was even he couldn't do it all on his own and depended on the brain trust around him. Cook is a logistics and operational expert and somehow he must be defaulting to that thought process which, in turn, has to be stifling the creative types inside Apple.

While Samsung had some serious issues around its phone months back, it has been far more innovative in pushing the capabilities of its smartphones. Google's Pixel phone is also a very viable product that in time will become a bigger challenge.

Cook's strategy seems to be one of adding incremental improvements and charging more for the products until the customer pushes back. The recent lineup of new Macs is a great example of getting very little in feature improvements but coming with a higher price tag.

This will very likely be borne out when the new iPhone arrives this fall and we see hyped feature improvements that will be small in reality but which will come with an oversized price hike.

While Apple is still throwing off tons of profit and cash every quarter, the company is slipping. Until the board of directors finds someone who can kick-start real innovation again, we are going to be less than wowed every time Cook takes the stage.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at rfaletra@thechannelcompany.com.

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