I had eagerly anticipated this book. Tim Cook has been the CEO of one of the world’s most valuable companies for almost nine years. Yet, ironically, this is the first detailed attempt in book form to closely examine the man’s background leading up to his assuming control after Steve Jobs’ death in 2011 and the influence that he has had in re-shaping the culture of Apple Inc. while bringing the company’s market capitalization to a staggering trillion dollars.
Kahney opens with a quick introduction entitled “Killing It” which summarizes the industry dominance that Apple currently enjoys and makes it clear that Cook gets a lion’s share of the credit. He goes on to introduce the six core values that Cook has ingrained in the company’s strategy: accessibility; education; environment; inclusion and diversity; privacy and security; and supplier responsibility. These lay the groundwork for very detailed discussion in the second half of the book of Cook’s passion for coupling good strategy with good values and his success in achieving it.
The first chapter describes in some detail the interesting specifics of the leadership handover from Steve Jobs to Tim Cook that culminated in 2011. Kahney goes on to describe the reservations that many pundits had regarding his ability to sustain Apple’s momentum. In retrospect, those many who predicted imminent failure are now a little hard to be found.
The next few chapters highlight Cook’s early life and education near Mobile, Alabama, his matriculation at Auburn culminating in a BS in Industrial Engineering, and his pre-Apple stints at IBM, Intelligent Electronics, and Compaq. Cook spent the first twelve years of his career at IBM. I had the good fortune to work closely with Tim during much of that time, which was characterized by high volume manufacturing at IBM’s Research Triangle Park, NC facility and most notably the bringing of the IBM Personal Computer Company and the manufacture of its exciting array of products to the site. Those were heady times for all of us lucky enough to be involved. Cook was every bit the leader that Kahney describes in the book. Nobody outworked Tim Cook. His work was his life, and apparently still is. It was also telling that two of his current right hand men at Apple, Jeff Williams (Apple’s current COO) and Bill Frederick, were part of our IBM team.
Kahney proceeds to spend the remaining three quarters of the book describing Cook’s hiring out of Compaq by Steve Jobs, his increasingly significant roles in managing operations at Apple, his appointment as COO, his serving as interim CEO during two of Jobs’ illnesses and convalescences, his 2011 elevation to CEO, and his subsequent seven years in leading Apple to the pinnacle of Silicon Valley and the tech industry.
Kahney does a good job describing the facts surrounding the numerous hardware and software launches for iPhone, iPad, iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro, Apple Watch, OSX, iOS, Apple Music, etc during those years as well as the role that Cook had in ensuring their success. He also goes into interesting detail regarding the planning and realization of the new Apple Park headquarters.
Kahney fairly criticizes Cook and his team for the premature launch of Apple Maps and particularly the ephemeral, on-again / off-again status of Project Titan, for the much rumored self-driving Apple Car. But I believe that he did not go far enough. Apple is now at a significant crossroads. Continued growth is only going to be ensured by entrances into entire new product offerings, particularly in the service sector. I believe that Kahney missed a key set of discussion points regarding Cook’s potential for keeping Apple on its current growth track. The last decade has been great, and it has been led primarily by hardware, much of it originally conceived in the Jobs era. Okay, now what?
Kahney does a particularly good job in describing the facts surrounding the government’s demand for Apple to assist with the decryption of the San Bernardino assailant’s iPhone and Cook’s refusal to budge on Apple’s commitment to privacy. In the end, Cook and Apple were vindicated by the press and court of public opinion.
He spends roughly a quarter of the book going into quite a bit of detail regarding Cook’s commitment to the environment and diversity. In having known and worked with Tim, I do not doubt his commitment to these values and his leadership in ingraining them in Apple’s culture, but I still felt that I was reading a series of Apple press releases as I waded through this significant portion of the book.
In summary, the book is a very worthwhile read and you should come away with a great deal of respect for Tim Cook and what he has achieved. Kahney tends to cheerleading throughout much of the book in making his case, but I do not quarrel with his conclusions. I only wonder now what is next for Cook. As he is only fifty-nine years old, would there not be some potential for him to enter politics? Time will tell. But I know this. He has much to offer as a visionary and leader. As I am a longtime conservative Republican, I am not at all reluctant to say that I would certainly give him a shot.
- Hardcover: 303 pages
- Publisher: Portfolio (16 April 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0525537600
- ISBN-13: 978-0525537601
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.8 x 23.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 499 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)