There’s someone over at TheStreet, an online finance publication, who is obsessed with asserting that it’s time for Tim Cook to leave Apple. In his latest rant, he equates the performance of Tim Cook to Ron Johnson, the recently ousted CEO of J.C. Penney, who was the first head of Apple’s retail division.
His theory is that Johnson was great at implementing the vision of Steve Jobs to establish the Apple Store retail chain, but a “good soldier” doesn’t necessarily have the chops to strike out on his own. Of course, the columnist in question conveniently forgets that Johnson had a stellar reputation as a retail executive before he was recruited by Apple. He shouldn’t be excused for his missteps at J.C. Penney, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s incompetent. It may have been an oil and water situation; he was simply the wrong executive to run a traditional department store chain.
Taking that to Cook, since he’s the supply chain wizard, he’s not qualified to run the whole company. It’s not that Apple has suddenly become unsuccessful. It seems more an issue of perceptions than of actual performance. We won’t have the figures for the latest quarter until after the market closes on April 23, hours after this article first appears.
But even if Apple doesn’t meet their own guidance for the quester (expressed as a range rather than a single figure), that doesn’t mean that Cook is a failure. Steve Jobs had to survive lesser quarters as well, including ones where the company lost money, and that’s not at all expected for the March quarter however it turns out.
Certainly anyone who demands that Tim Cook resign would need to demonstrate that Apple is failing under his leadership, that he’s moving the company in the wrong direction, that the products and services he introduces aren’t in keeping with Apple’s tradition. So far, there’s no evidence whatever to demand that Cook be ousted. Lest we forget, he also worked as a temporary CEO several times when Steve Jobs took sick leave. Product introductions continued without let-up, and Apple continued to report great sales and profits.
By the way, there’s another published report that Apple’s board is already searching for Tim Cook’s replacement. That, however, could be due diligence in case something were to happen to Cook other than an actual dismissal. and they had to act quickly.
Demands of this sort, however, are in the tradition of demands that Apple build this product or that product, or otherwise lose out on billions of dollars of potential revenue and products. There appears to be no product segment that Apple shouldn’t enter since that’s what the critics require.
Of course, if I were one to voice conspiracy theories, I might suggest that some of those demands to oust Cook come from unscrupulous investors who want to manipulate Apple’s stock price to advance their own greedy agendas. You might also wonder whether some of Apple’s competitors aren’t funding critics to spread doom and gloom.
Do I sound paranoid? Well, do you recall when Samsung was recently singled out for financing a negative publicity campaign against HTC in Taiwan? Microsoft has been caught paying bloggers (or plying them with free stuff) in the hopes they will write favorable articles. True, engaging in unsavory behavior that might cause investors to lose money, and a company’s market cap to tank, is probably illegal. But catching and prosecuting the offenders may be no easy process, and it’s very likely the regulatory authorities have other priorities. Worse, if Apple complained about such behavior, it would come across as sour grapes. You just can’t win!
Now none of these attempts to second guess Apple should come as a surprise. That’s been going on for years, even in the early days of the Mac platform. In those days, Apple was exhorted to license the OS to third parties to expand the market, with some suggesting that Windows would never have gained dominance if Apple had only listened to the media. How dare they ignore the pundits who really know better? Imagine if those pundits had to play CEO for a day or a month. Would they still feel safe to tell you what Apple should have been doing, implying that the people who are managing the company are dolts?
True, Apple has had executives who were clearly incompetent, and the same can be said for a number of other companies that we can all name. But how many pundits have the street cred to give an air of authority to what they write? Talk is cheap, and it’s very easy to just make outlandish statements or claims without evidence, in the hope that there will be enough hits and shared ad revenue to make the effort profitable.
In the end, I still hope Apple will make a more determined effort to deal with inaccurate statements about the company. Sometimes, though, responding may itself give a falsehood more credibility than it deserves. It’s a juggling match, and perhaps Apple hopes that real performance, rather than unfounded claims, will demonstrate how well the company is doing.
But I’ll have more to say on that subject after Apple’s financials are released.