Are we still judging Apple by Steve Jobs?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Are we still judging Apple by Steve Jobs?
As we've mentioned a number of times now, often in defense of Google, companies have personalities, insofar as companies reflect the personality of their CEOs. We have mentioned this in order to squash silly rumors that Google is out to steal your private data, or is planning to implode the Android ecosystem by closing it off and making its own devices with Motorola. This time though, we have to take a moment to consider how this philosophy affects Apple. Apple is known as Steve Jobs' company, and essentially an extension of the man himself. The trouble is that Steve is no longer the CEO; Tim Cook is. 

And, that is where we need to make a point here. We're talking about how Apple does business not Apple products. Apple products are still a matter of opinion. The products won't change in core philosophy. They will still be geared for ease and integration, even if that means limitations. That may not be everyone's style, but we can't begrudge the choice to those who love Apple products, and there are a lot of those people out there. What we are talking about is how Apple has done business, which has been inexorably tied to Steve Jobs' personality, and the fact that Apple may change how it does business with Tim Cook in charge.  

Over the course of the life of Apple, the company has been an ambitious, cocky, but lovable upstart under the leadership of a young Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; an in-over-its-head visionless mess under John Sculley, Michael Spindler, and Gil Amelio; and a focused, innovative, and vengeful profit-machine under a matured Steve Jobs. The question is: what kind of company will it be under Tim Cook? 

Steve Jobs' Apple

Steve Jobs was an incredibly smart man with a focused vision and an eye for design, especially in regards to minimalism. He was also moody, often cruel, obsessed with image, and able to live in his "reality distortion field" as Walter Isaacson said. As a reflection of this, Apple products have been simple, well designed, and focused/integrated, while Apple the company has been vindictive, often litigious, but with a certain coolness. 

Apple often threatened or sued other companies, which in and of itself was nothing out of the ordinary, but Apple always had a certain edge to its lawsuits. The company would always go for blood, aiming to enforce injunctions on products that it (Steve) saw as infringing (stealing) its (his) patents (ideas). Of course, we all know that Steve once said that he wanted to "destroy Android" and wage "thermonuclear war" over what he saw as a "stolen" product. On that path, Apple sued a number of Android manufacturers including HTC, Motorola, and especially targeted Samsung, and sought injunctions on devices, eventually forced both HTC and Samsung to change products to avoid patent litigation. 

Apple used highly questionable manufacturing plants in Asia, and never had to really answer for it under Steve Jobs. The same things that were shown in that now famous ABC investigation of Foxconn have been happening for years, but no one ever had the courage to take the protest directly to Apple HQ like we saw last month. 

Apple product announcements were big, theatrical events with iconic images and an incredible, amazing, magical amount of superlatives. 

Moving past Steve

Unfortunately, Steve has passed, and with his passing, there is an inevitable shift in the way Apple conducts business. Although Steve vowed revenge on Eric Schmidt and Android, it's highly unlikely (though not technically impossible) that he left it as a request in his will that the war be completed. We have already seen that begin to shift, as Apple recently offered Android manufacturers a licensing deal for use of its patents. As we mentioned before, suing over patent violation is nothing new, but rather than Steve's aim of a kill-shot, most patent lawsuits end up with licensing agreements, just like the one that Microsoft has with over half of all Android manufacturers, and the one that Motorola offered to Apple to settle their patent dispute. This is the traditional way of business; don't try to destroy competitors, just profit from them. 

As far as design of products, we can assume that the company will continue its trend of excellence as long as Jony Ive is working there, because he was always considered the true genius of the relationship, whereas Steve was more of a collaborator/visionary. There is no reason not to trust Jony Ive, but we have yet to see what come after Steve in the design department, because the iPhone 4S and new iPad are both essentially identical to their predecessors. 

And, that brings us to Tim Cook. He's an intelligent man with a passion for efficiency, due to his background in supply chain management. The rest of what makes up the man is still not fully known, though we have seen that he is not as vengeful as Steve with his offer of compromise with Android makers. He has also started a new era of relative transparency with Apple, which has been more open about the companies it uses for production, and has joined the Fair Labor Association. These are small concessions, but potentially meaningful ones, because Apple is seen as a sort of role model for other companies. Plenty of other companies use similar business practices, but don't get the level of heat because there is a certain fervor around Apple products, both from fans and detractors. 

We can't say completely, because the timeline is fairly short, but it seems as though Tim Cook's Apple is a more conscientious and responsible company. It has been more open about its manufacturing process, and although it is a very small change, Apple has begun taking smaller profit margins on devices, which is something that the company would also need to do to build its products more ethically as has been demanded by critics. 

A new Apple

But at the new iPad announcement, Cook was subtly clear that he is not Steve Jobs. To an extent, the new iPad announcement was something of a eulogy to Steve Jobs. The company didn't have time to really design a tribute to Steve with the iPhone 4S announcement. The closest they got there was that Tim cook wore a black shirt tucked into jeans, which seemed like something of an homage. 

The new iPad announcement had all of the trappings of a Steve Jobs' Apple announcement: heavy rumors, spectacle, slides, and a moving ending. Still, the entire affair seemed to be both eulogy to Steve, and introduction to Tim. We still had the amazing superlatives, but most came from Phil Schiller, not Tim Cook. We were not given a "one more thing..." to wow us, but a moving message from the new CEO to his team. Even the naming of the new iPad broke from the traditions set by Steve Jobs, as though this device was not a continuation of the iPads that came before, but was a new device from a new company. And, possibly most telling, we had the introduction of a new Apple logo. The logo itself is again both a tribute to Steve Jobs with its vaguely tie-dyed aesthetic, but it is a clear indication that this is a new Apple. 

Many Apple critics/haters are still clinging to the same old arguments that the company is overly litigious, hypocritical about patent disputes, and constantly releasing the same products. The last argument is pure bias, which could be applied to any company really. Any yearly iteration on hardware is going to be a slow evolution and not an epic change (as Apple marketing claims, but of course that is the job of marketing.) As far as the former arguments, time will tell, but the early indications are that this is not the same Apple. The company may sue over patent disputes, but many companies do the same thing, and if Apple aims for licensing deals rather than injunctions, there is no difference in practice than patent lawsuits that we have seen from Microsoft, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, or Nokia. 

There will always be Apple haters out there, but the same arguments may not be there for too long, because the personality of the company is changing. This isn't Steve Jobs' Apple anymore, it's Jony Ive and Tim Cook's. Maybe that means something. It is a bit too early to tell, but at the very least the company should get a period to prove itself before the same jabs are thrown. It may very well be the same company it has always been, but at least right now, it seems to be doing business in a slightly different way. 



1. Birds

Posts: 1172; Member since: Nov 21, 2011

YEP becuse as Jazmine Sullivan says "I searched all around but there's no body else in the...the world" That can replace Steve Jobs. But I wish Tim Cook the best though.

2. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

Moving past Steve??? How about building Apple products in the USA,instead of enslaving poor,half-starved people in the Third World to make obscene profits??? How about not trying to drown all competition in oceans of lawsuits??? Untill these things happen,this "moving past" is just not possible.

3. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

How about EVERY company manufactures in those areas (not just tech companies either) because there is business incentive to do so. Apple is not alone in this. It may be a practice that we want to change, but singling out Apple as the problem doesn't help anything.

8. bigboy029

Posts: 74; Member since: Jan 03, 2011

Thank you! I dont understand why everyone thinks Apple is the only one doing this!

84. Mr.Best

Posts: 79; Member since: Jan 17, 2012

So because Apple is not alone in doing this makes them right? For a "bigboy" that's rather small thinking.

10. itiswhatitis

Posts: 423; Member since: Jan 23, 2012

No,it wont but eventually it will because everyone's watching Apple and people(in general) are more interested in apple than other companies so if apple decides to do things differently other companies just might follow.

24. rf1975

Posts: 264; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

So you think that other companies like HP, Lenovo, Samsung & HTC will open their supplier & factories to FLA in near future.

25. itiswhatitis

Posts: 423; Member since: Jan 23, 2012

Its' possible no one can really know for sure

115. firelightx

Posts: 71; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

Half of the companies in your list aren't even American companies. I hope you're not asking them to move their factories here when they have no ties here beyond "products sell well over there." That said, I do think that if Apple were to make a drastic change to improve labor practices, some of these companies would follow suit. Samsung in particular can't stand to let Apple do anything without pulling the "Me too oh oh oh me me me!" routine. And I say that being a pretty heavy Samsung fan (Galaxy Nexus represent!)

28. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I have no problem with putting pressure on Apple to change, but to act as though Apple is the only company in the wrong doesn't help anything. When was the last time you saw someone calling out a company like Samsung, Microsoft, Asus, Nokia, or Motorola (now Google) for using the same facilities for their products? Aiming at Apple doesn't put pressure on everyone to be better, it deflects blame away from other companies and onto Apple. If you want pressure on everyone, we have to put pressure on everyone.

86. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Michael, That happens regularly on this site.. by ME. :) I knock every one of those companies when they do something wrong. BTW, Samsung Galaxy products are made in house by workers with some rights and actual employee benefits. Still not great, but its definitely better than foxconn. I also dont believe that Nokia uses foxconn either. However I have been loud about every company that uses foxconn. If people would join me in taking a stand and not buying foxconn products things might change. Apathy however, will just keep things right where they are. And no, aiming at apple does put pressure on others because its "follow the leader". You go after the big guy first and get him to change and then the rest follow suite. Why would smaller companies change and take the hit on profits if the larger, massively profitable one wont?

97. 8logic

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 05, 2012

first of all, do anyone here have family or know people in china? if you do, you would know getting paid $2/hr USD is like getting paid $13 something over there which, is a lot better than a lot of minimum wage jobs that requires manual labor and only pays $1200-$1500 yuan, and thats a salary pay which means they work more hours! so, if you can do the math, its really a lot better pay than other jobs there. AND PLEASE do not call it slavery, cause you have no idea what slavery is. these jobs is the single reason why china and other poorer third world country have seen an increase is standard of living. people can complain about losing jobs in the developed country, but to my experience, these are the same people that complain about not helping the poor in third world countries (make no sense right?) if they only know that for every job lost in the US, 2.5 is created in a third world country, and that is 2.5 person that is not starving.

108. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

for a person with "logic" in their name, you think you would have some. BTW, apple workers in the ipad plant in Chenzen, just got a RAISE to about 60 cents USD.

119. 8logic

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 05, 2012

You are the one without a clue. $2 might not mean that much to you but, $2 is $13 yuan there. Their minimum wage is about the same as US at about $1500 a MONTH with more hours. So, $13 a HOUR is f**king pretty GOOD. 1500/13= that's only 115 hour of work so, the rest of extra time they but in is above national average. I have plenty of family members there that get pay way less. So, before you start taking s**t, learn that pay in term of of USD is relative to the standard of living in the given location.

120. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

did you notice the part where they only make 60 cents an hour at the iPad factory.. they dont get over time, they only average arond 60 bux after taxes a paycheck for an average of 60-100 hrs. I'd also love to see where you came up with this "2 dollars in chinese is equivilant to 13 american". Show me that documentation please. yea.. i dont know where you are getting this 2 buck an hour thing, but from every report ive seen so far the highest pay was 1.60, AFTER the last round of raises, and that was at the Xbox factory. Also, every time Foxconn gives a raise they also raise the cost of all the food and goods sold to their employees to recoup that raise. So they dont actually get much of a raise at all, do they? Publicity, that is all. Again, ya missed the easy logic.

124. 8logic

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 05, 2012

are you stupid???? the exchange rate from USD to yuan is $1USD: 6.35 YUAN (google it!) where do you get 60 cent pay? the pay is somewhere between $1.70- $2.50 source: KEEP IN MIND $400 USD (average monthly pay) X 6.35 (exchange rate) = $2,540 yuan

100. itiswhatitis

Posts: 423; Member since: Jan 23, 2012

You can't put pressure on everyone cuz it wont likely be effective right now apple is like a leader (in terms of sales)so if you go after the leader everyone else will follow,besides they will also earned respect apart from $

42. Lucas777

Posts: 2137; Member since: Jan 06, 2011

nobody is going to minimize their profits because apple would.. and apple never would.. which is why other companies emulate them in the first place

19. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

We HAVE to single out Apple. They are the most profitable company that is not an oil company in the history of this planet. Apple has no excuse for what is happening over there. When you are number one the spotlight is on you. That is why Apple is singled out! Also can poor Steve Jobs finally rest in peace, why must we STILL keep talking about a man who's has time expired? Apple has moved on & the point is that Apple is a company the Steve Jobs built. That will NEVER change. Why does it matter if we are judging Apple by Steve Jobs? What does that even mean? Apple is Apple right? Because Steve Jobs is now dead, Apple is actually trying to license some of their patents, that would have NEVER happened on the Steve Jobs watch. Steve Jobs when he was alive was like the Great Eye of Mordor or the Eye of Sauron watching ALL in the land of Apple, making sure his will is followed! It looks like Apple may be moving away from that. It’s STILL too early to see if that is true or not.

29. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Even from the beginning of your reply to the end you started to come around to my thinking. Yes, Apple is the biggest, so they will get the spotlight, but that doesn't mean we ignore the fact that all of Apple's competitors use those same facilities. That's the problem I have with Apple haters. It's fine to call out Apple on problems, but they can't act like they're superior because Motorola, Nokia and Samsung use the same production scheme as Apple. Apple is not Apple. Re-read the opening two paragraphs of my article for the reasoning. The Apple we knew died with Steve Jobs. Sure, the products will stay the same or similar, but there's no reason to believe the company will be run the same way. If you don't like the products, that's fine, but the way a company is run changes, so we can't jump to conclusions there. I say Tim Cook gets the benefit of the doubt until he proves he'll be just as ruthless as Jobs.

87. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Apple is still apple. Steve's influence will be felt for a little while longer in the products at least. Companies plan 2+ generations ahead in development, Apple is no different. Maybe the i5 is far enough away that Cook is able to make adjustments, but maybe not. His influence probably wont be fully felt until the i6. That whole "independent commission" nonsense was started under jobs. They joined up while he was still alive. And its also a front company started by Nike and other major human rights violators as a glorified PR firm. This article would have been better in a bout a year from now when Job's influence was really fading. As it is right now, the company is making its first minor wiggles as a "Jobs free" company and has a long time to go before it is seen as truely "post Jobs". Sure, Cook might have offered manufacturers a lifeline, but it was still an Apple style lifeline, over inflated and with a noose tied to the end so they could hang themselves. Apple does not have nearly the patent portfolio to justify the type of $$ that he was demanding per handset. Cook might not have went for a direct kill shot with that, but he is trying to trick them into killing themselves while Apple profiteers off of the maneuver. Dont get me wrong. There are little glimmers of hope with Cook like when he immediately started allowing people to set aside part of their paycheck for charity, but I really dont think Jobs would have left Cook in charge if he didnt really feel that the apple didnt fall far from the tree. For better or worse Jobs was a man with a laser like but also equally narrow vision. He would have found a successor that fit into that vision.

40. JeffdaBeat unregistered

I agree with you to a point. I think if you are trying to incite change, you do have to target the biggest violator. But I disagree by changing Apple, that you change the whole industry. I've said this before, but if Apple completely switched it up and brought all of their jobs to the United States, that wouldn't cure America's problem of wanting everything as cheap as possible. That's the real problem you are dealing with. When Americans (and others for that matter) stop needing their electonics for next to nothing, outsourcing will stop. Labor ethics with Foxconn and China overall is another topic... for Steve Jobs, a lot of the hatred Apple gets is because of Steve Jobs. I admire the man, but I also realize that he is just a man. I'm a huge Apple fan, but even the "You're holding it wrong" thing made me go on a tirade on PhoneArena about how pompous that remark was. Apple today only exists because of Jobs. Not Apple overall, but Apple since he returned. He made such HUGE changes to the company that it truly is his child. Sure, others helped him form it, but they wouldn't exist in the company without him. It's going to take time for Apple to turn into something that isn't just Steve Jobs, just like Microsoft took a while to not be just Bill Gates...or Ford being something other than Henry Ford. I agree, people need to rethink Apple. The company isn't just its CEO anymore. Tim Cook seems to be more of a team guy than the iconic figure and that's a good thing. The stock prices won't fluctuate based off his health...or what he's wearing that day.

30. cgyspy

Posts: 13; Member since: Jan 25, 2012

True that other companies are doing the same thing..but Apple is the one taking to the extreme. How come other companies manufacturing in China doesnt have the same profit margin?. The way I see it Apple is making these obscene profits in two exploiting labor in China....and by not paying the royalties on technologies patented by other companies that it is using. Recent attempt by Apple to settle with Motorola and Samsung on royalty payment proves this. Like Steve Job said, you have to be a genius to steal technology from other company and not pay for it.

37. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Other companies don't have the profit margin because they don't have the business model and product pricing that Apple does. It's not like Motorola and Samsung are paying those workers more. Their devices cost just as little to produce as Apple, they just can't price their devices as high as Apple.

88. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Samsung pays a smidge more but offers actual benefits and vacation/sick pay. Pay is relevant to the country/area you are in. Its not like they are going to be paid american wages. Judge them on how they treat their workers and if the pay that they do receive is enough to make them in the middle class somewhere and not still poor. Comparing that, Samsung looks like a frikkin angel compared to Apple/foxconn, who still gets paid less than a buck an hour at their Chenzen factory which makes the ipads. Even MS pays their foxconn workers more at that Xbox factory that had the "suicide or better working conditions" stand off a few months ago.

101. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

i agree with you Micheal on most of the things you said in this beautiful piece but i guess its too early to say that apple has changed. and yeah they are constatntly releasing the same product with minor changes. that probably works for apple in terms of sales but they have not invented anything significant, apart from silly law suits, for quite some time now. and i think the reason apple gets the heat for things which other companies are also doing, because they market themselves as the best.

117. Slammer

Posts: 1515; Member since: Jun 03, 2010

Yes. Maybe others are practicing the same business, however, Apple's extreme profit margin for the same practice over the others, sings with the abuse they are willing to support just to make the bottom line. That is the bone of contention that makes Apple the target. It's not ok for others to be practicing this and the shear profits Apple makes of this practice, makes it far worse. We can all look at this in different perspective, but the bottom line is that Apple has exploited the measure by facilitating the practice for their benefit and then denounce that they are not in total agreement with Foxconn's business directive. This is hypocritical and reeks with more consumer manipulation to make them look like the champs. The disqusting part of individuals' attitudes, is that it is ok Apple does it because all the others do it. I'm not sure what side of the fence you're on here Michael. I understand your post to correct the others, but in the same breath, your excusing Apple's stance. A stance that has made them one of the richest companies in the world in ten short years by abusing this practice. Yes, we need change. Are you willing to boycott Apple to get your point across? Or are you going to continue to keep them in eyesight with the constant barrage of news articles? The truth will be answered by your actions. John B.

99. 8logic

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 05, 2012

first of all, do anyone here have family or know people in china? if you do, you would know getting paid $2/hr USD is like getting paid $13 something over there which, is a lot better than a lot of minimum wage jobs that requires manual labor and only pays $1200-$1500 yuan, and thats a salary pay which means they work more hours! so, if you can do the math, its really a lot better pay than other jobs there. AND PLEASE do not call it slavery, cause you have no idea what slavery is. these jobs is the single reason why china and other poorer third world country have seen an increase is standard of living. people can complain about losing jobs in the developed country, but to my experience, these are the same people that complain about not helping the poor in third world countries (make no sense right?) if they only know that for every job lost in the US, 2.5 is created in a third world country, and that is 2.5 person that is not starving.

116. kaushaln

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 11, 2012

If that was to be done, an ipad would cost around $1400. Don't think the guys at apple are foolish. They are wickedly smart

118. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

no, it would cost only a little more than it does now, if at all. Apple makes stratospheric profit margins, they have a bit of wiggle room to swallow costs if they need to.

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