After yesterday's talk at the Goldman Sachs investment conference, Tim Cook has proven himself a better PR representative for Apple than his predecessor at a time when the company really needs a likable CEO. Considering the Foxconn and iPhone privacy messes the company has found itself dealing with of late, Apple is lucky to have a CEO like Cook, who's willing to address the company's issues out in the open. And, unlike Steve Jobs, who "treated investors as if they were biohazards," in the words of Bits Blog's Nick Wingfield, Cook seems happy to speak directly to all.
Almost six months into his stint as leader of the tech giant, Cook has proved that, while not a visionary like Jobs, he's not ruining Apple, which cemented its place as the largest U.S. company this week with a market capitalization of $475 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. But that follows a successful iPhone 4S launch, a Jobs product. Will Cook change the culture that developed these successful products? "Apple is this unique company, unique culture that you can’t replicate," Cook said yesterday, addressing this very worry. "I’m not going to witness or permit the slow undoing of it."
Cook then gave a teeny tiny hint of Apple's continued post-Jobs innovation, talking up company thoughts on Apple TV:
Apple doesn't do hobbies, as a general rule. We believe in focus and only working on a few things. With Apple TV, however, despite the barriers in that market, for those of us who use it, we've always thought there was something there. And that if we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string, then we might find something that was larger. For those people that have it right now, the customer satisfaction is off the charts. But we need something that could go more main market for it to be a serious category.
Beyond innovations, Cook is also speaking directly to corporate responsibility, spending a good chunk of his Goldman speech talking about Foxconn issues. "The first thing that I would want everyone to know is that Apple takes working conditions very, very seriously, and we have for a very long time," he began, before going into Apple's stance on underage labor and overworking employees. That follows his official statements on the issue. Cook has also made a public to do about Apple's philanthropic efforts, something Steve Jobs did not do.
Cook also revealed some personality yesterday, proving himself to be quite different from Jobs, who was known as kind of a jerk. ZDNet's Larry Dignan called him "likable," GigaOm's Erica Ogg said he showed some "rare color," and Bits' Wingfield left it at "displaying a bit more personality." A likable public face can only help a company now facing criticisms as a sweat-shop enabling, privacy violating organization.