Apple's Tim Cook Is Trying My Patience


When Tim Cook succeeded Steve Jobs as the chief executive officer of Apple, , I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The burden of following the legendary Jobs, while promising riches beyond belief, looked like a no-win situation for Cook. His accomplishments would inevitably be traced to Jobs and Cook's failures would be a result of his own poor performance.

But now I am running out of patience with Cook.

Like much of the rest of the civilized world, I am waiting for Apple to come up with a new "wow" innovation, something that was a hallmark of the tenure of Jobs, who passed away Oct. 5, 2011. Cook has chosen to recycle existing successes.

The U.S. media suggest that Apple may announce the birth of iRadio at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on June 10-14 in San Francisco.

But this has been described as a "Pandora-like" innovation because users can customize the music to meet their tastes.

Hmmm. Well, I can remember back during the good old days, when every tech company was scrambling to concoct an "Apple-like" product.

Maybe Cook will drop a bomb at the conference and change my perception of him. Perhaps he will ignite Apple's stock price and send it back to the stratosphere. Or maybe he will deliver a dud.

The company's stock market performance has been desultory.

And most discouraging of all, Cook can appear to be insensitive to the plight of his stockholders, as he mouths vague observations about Apple's performance and prospects.

I used to think that Cook was being shrewd and wily to keep the information close to his chest, aware that Google and other Apple rivals hang on his every word. Now, however, I wonder if Cook actually has anything to say at all. Of course, people can argue -- with a measure of reason -- that it would be foolish of Cook to say anything, in the fear that he could allow his foes to beat Apple to the next tech breakthrough.

It's also a fair point to say that Cook deserves more time than just a few years to make his mark. After all, Jobs didn't present the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad overnight.

But I'd contend that Cook is hardly a rookie at Apple -- and this kind of scrutiny, fair or not, goes with the turf of running what is widely considered the most dynamic company in Silicon Valley, if not the entire United States.

Wall Street apparently seems to wonder about that, too.

Since Cook became CEO on Aug. 24, 2011:

  • Apple is up 20%.

  • The S&P 500 is up 39%.

  • SPDR Technology Select Sector ETF is up 35% .

  • Google is up 65%.

Since Cook announced a management shakeup on Oct. 29, 2012:

  • Apple is down 25% .

  • The S&P 500 is up 16% .

  • SPDR Technology ETF is up 10%.

  • Google is up 28%.

As The Fool's astute Evan Niu pointed out in a piece published on April 22, Cook has delivered strong fundamentals: "Last quarter was quite literally the strongest quarter Apple has ever posted in terms of revenue, net income and unit volumes for the iPhone and iPad, even if it wasn't enough for investors."

It could also be argued, however, that Cook recently squandered a golden opportunity last week to show that he and his company are on the right track. He appeared on May 28 as the main attraction at the All Things Digital conference in California. Cook could have seized the moment. Instead, he talked in vague concepts and offered his stockholders nothing in the way of assurances that they should feel good about their investments.

As I examined MarketWatch's liveblog account of Cook's comments, the word that comes to mind is "discouraging." I am not an Apple stockholder but I can imagine that Apple Nation gnashed its teeth when Cook chose not to give the slightest bit of detail to describe Apple's strategy and his own vision.

For example, when asked about Apple's formidable foes, Cook answered: "We've always had competent rivals."

Whither the future? "We have to focus on products."

What can we look forward to from Tim Cook's Apple?

"We have several game changers in us."

And how about that ever-declining stock price? It "has been frustrating."

Say, what abut the much-discussed Apple TV? It has been "very good as a learning point."

Everyone is now talking about computer wearables, such as Google Glass (or, dare I say, the prospective iWatch from Apple). What do you think, Mr. Cook? "I'm interested in a great product."

And so it went.

Maybe I expect too much. But Cook certainly has the goods. He is by all indications a laser-smart, genial, forward-thinking CEO. He keeps his cool in interviews and never allows the questioners to throw him off his game, much like a tennis player who won't be pushed to abandon his game plan.

I just wish he would tell us what's on his mind. He would help the shareholders, the company -- and, yes, himself.

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Fool contributor Jon Friedman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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