Apple Engineer: Tim Cook Turned Apple into a “Boring Operations Company”

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Jan 18, 2017
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Bob Burrough, a former Apple engineer has accused Tim Cook of turning Apple “into a boring operations company”. He said that while there’s less internal conflict in the company, Apple has lost its dynamism to avoid this conflict between teams.

“Tim’s message was loud and clear: ‘Don’t bring me conflict'”

Tim Cook took over as CEO of the Cupertino tech giant in 2011 and has turned the company into the richest in the world. From $108.2 billion in 2011 to $215.7 billion in 2016, Cook has nearly doubled its annual revenue. But, Cook is yet to deliver an exciting new product like the iPhone, iPod or iPad, and is said to be benefiting from the products introduced in Steve’s era.

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Burrough made this accusation of Cook moving away from innovation in a Twitter fight and later spoke to CNBC about his views of Apple under Tim Cook’s leadership. He said that the “dynamic has clearly and distinctly changed”.

“At Apple in 2007, organizationally it was the wild west,” Burrough said. “I was hired under a particular manager, but for the first two years worked on projects that had virtually nothing to do with that manager’s core responsibility. That’s because the organization wasn’t the priority, the projects were the priority. It was the exact opposite of ‘not my job.’ It was ‘I’m here to solve whatever problems I can, irrespective of my role, my title, or to whom I report.’ It was wild. But it was also very rewarding, because everything you did had maximal impact on the product.”

Cook has also replaced leaders like Scott Forstall, who reportedly clashed with him and other Apple execs.

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Apple analyst Horace Dediu, however, disagreed with Burrough in this tweetstorm, saying Burrough’s tweets spoke “of ignorance,” adding that “invention is not innovation.”

An earlier piece from Business Insider reveals what Dediu thinks of this changing internal environment. While he disagreed with Burrough in tweets, Dediu had said that Apple is probably trying to minimize the focus on a hit-driven business.

I think Apple management has been trying to de-emphasize the hit-driven business. That’s not to say they’re not going to have more hits, but they don’t want the company to be seen as a hits business. One of the big audiences that Tim [CEO Tim Cook] has is actually internal employee morale. I think the hit-driven mindset is demoralizing internally, and there is a concerted effort to tone down this ‘Let’s hit home runs’ mind-set.

But doesn’t it actually confirm the change in leadership and the fact that Apple is perhaps becoming more like Microsoft under Steve Ballmer. As CNBC noted many have “likened Cook’s leadership to that of Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, who took over from Bill Gates and tripled Microsoft’s sales”. But, while trying to profit more from services (recurring-revenue business) and being happy about doubling revenues, the companies often miss major opportunities when they stop taking risks.

This debate from former employees follows the disappointment that many shared in the tech industry after the launch of the latest iPhone and MacBook Pro last year. The latest MacBook Pro with Touch Bar was the first Mac ever to not receive an endorsement from Consumer Reports. While CR has changed its recommendation now, lack of “innovation” in both the product categories has everyone talking about the changing dynamics inside Apple.

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