It's been eight months since Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO and was replaced by long-time Apple veteran and operations whiz Tim Cook. Since that time, Apple's market cap has exploded as the company continued to deliver record breaking earnings without aberration.
A long standing question for Apple watchers and enthusiasts has always been - "What will Apple look like post-Steve Jobs?" Certainly, it's easy to proclaim that Apple will be a shell of itself without Jobs at the helm, but the reality is much more nuanced. Truth be told, Apple is bigger and was always bigger than Jobs. Apple has thousands of talented employees and Jobs worked hard to ensure that the leaders at Apple shared his sensibilities with respect to design, the user experience and the like.
To that end, Jobs left Apple in capable hands. Interestingly though, Jobs was quite vocal about not wanting Apple, in his absence, to fall prey to WWSD syndrome - that is, people running the company as a function of what they assume Steve Jobs would have done.
Well, not to worry. Tim Cook has masterfully kept Apple chugging along while also implementing changes that Jobs would have likely never done. For instance, a few months ago Cook instituted a charitable matching program for Apple employees wherein the mothership promised to match any charitable donations made by Apple employees. And more recently, Cook announced a dividend for Apple shareholders, something Jobs wasn't particularly bent on implementing himself.
In a recent profile on Cook that's worth reading in its entirety, Fortune's Adam Lashinsky highlights some of the other ways that Apple has changed under the Cook regime. Some of these changes have been a long time coming, while others may give people pause.
A 14-year veteran of the company, Cook is maintaining, by words and actions, most of Apple's unique corporate culture. But shifts of behavior and tone are absolutely apparent; some of them affect the core of Apple's critical product-development process. In general, Apple has become slightly more open and considerably more corporate. In some cases Cook is taking action that Apple sorely needed and employees badly wanted. It's almost as if he is working his way through a to-do list of long-overdue repairs the previous occupant (Jobs) refused to address for no reason other than obstinacy.
But in other areas, Cook is taking a decidingly anti-Jobsian approach.
Former Apple engineering VP Max Paley told Lashinsky, "It looks like it has become a more conservative execution engine rather than a pushing-the-envelope engineering engine. I've been told that any meeting of significance is now always populated by project management and global-supply management."
Paley continued, "When I was there, engineering decided what we wanted, and it was the job of product management and supply management to go get it. It shows a shift in priority."
Perhaps, but the real telltale sign will be what type of products Apple will release completely independent of Jobs' involvement. Notably, Jobs was reportedly intimately involved in the development of the iPhone 5 so we might have to wait for the iPhone 6 to see if Apple can keep its penchant for pushing the innovation envelope without any of Jobs input.
In a somewhat tantalizing tidbit, Lashinsky recounts how one Apple executive at Apple's annual Top 100 retreat was "blown away" by what he had seen, with Lashinsky hinting that the employees chosen to attend the retreat were given a glimpse of the iPhone 5 and perhaps Apple's rumored and borderline mythical HDTV.
Lastly, its also worth noting that Cook is reportedly much more approachable than Jobs.
For their part, most Apple employees seem more than satisfied with Cook. He often sits down randomly with employees in the cafeteria at lunchtime, whereas Jobs typically dined with design chief Jonathan Ive. It is a small difference that speaks volumes about how employees can expect to interact with their CEO.
And remember that Cook's satisfaction ranking as complied by Glassdoor.com came in at 97% from March 2011 through March 2012, besting Jobs' 95% employee approval ranking from 2010-2011.
Clearly, Apple under Tim Cook is a different animal than Apple under Steve Jobs. But this shouldn't be looked upon as a bad thing, but rather a confirmation that Jobs made the right call in naming Cook as his successor. With record breaking earnings and exceedingly impressive iPhone 4S and iPad sales, it's hard to find a chink in Apple's armor post-Jobs. And who knows, maybe Apple under Cook will soar to even greater heights than Jobs himself would have been able to attain.
That said, the past 8 months are certainly instructive when analyzing Apple under Tim Cook, but with some products being in the pipeline for sometimes 2-years before seeing the light of day, it might take a while longer for us to accurately ascertain the impact of Jobs' death on America's, arguably, most innovative company.