Apple have been much maligned among many tech circles for their failure to truly innovate, and the appointment of Tim Cook following the passing of Steve Jobs in 2011. Rarely are they the first to break into new fields – they aren’t even able to lay claim to producing the first-ever smartphone, despite popular belief – and when they do enter new markets, their products are regularly adjudge to be overpriced and under-performing.
And yet in spite of this, their products continually and, to an extent inexplicably, with the exception of the iPhone, take the market by storm. The Apple Watch is thought to have sold more than 50 million units despite initial scepticism, while it seems that every third person on the high street has a pair of AirPods protruding from their ears. Wherever you look, you can’t escape the presence of Apple – even in paid-for Android ads.
Jobs was nothing short of an innovator, a pioneer, and a tech genius. He played a key role, alongside co-founder Steve Wozniak, in taking Apple from the cliche Californian garage to a multi-billion-dollar, world-dominating company. What Cook has done in his eight years at the helm, however, is nothing short of extraordinary.
A quadrupling of its stock value saw Apple become the world’s first trillion-dollar company in 2018, and while that mantle wasn’t inhabited for very long, it was an achievement that gave credence to Cook’s position. He had begun taking the company to uncharted territories, exploring new technologies and groundbreaking opportunities. If there was any lingering doubt, Apple was no longer exclusively tied to the name Steve Jobs.
One of those new technologies was indeed the Apple Watch, the company’s first brand new product development in over five years at the time it was released in 2015. Its total sales surpassed that of the entire renowned Swiss watch industry, including brands like Rolex, Breitling and Heuer, in 2017 – if that’s not market disruption, I don’t quite know what is.
As the first new product to launch under Cook’s guidance, and not one to rest on his laurels, Apple’s CEO used this as a catalyst going forward. While the business was no longer synonymous with innovation, dominance of the watch market proved that the weight behind the name was enough to unseat even the oldest of legacy brands.
This has grounded Cook’s vision for the business going forward. Apple have shown an understanding that new technologies can only go so far – they’ve even given up the ghost on manufacturing their own 5G chips for the time being – and are turning to services-led business model as a way to boost revenues. With sales of their products having reached breaking point, seeing sales of its flagship product, the iPhone, beginning to decline, this move is Genius™.
But the fact of the matter is that Apple’s services function is already well established, Cook has simply pinpointed this as being where the future of the business lay. Twitter, for comparison, has 321 million active monthly users, all of whom log on to a free-to-use platform. Apple, on the other hand, has the same number of paid-up monthly subscribers across its various services, be it Apple Music, iCloud, Apple News or otherwise. Offset that against the 1.4 billion active devices Apple has in operation around the world, and there is plenty of yet untapped potential in the market.
What Cook has done over the past eight years in unprecedented. While Apple became wildly popular under Jobs’ guidance, Cook’s business acumen and decision making has taken this to new levels and it’s a trajectory that is only set to continue as focuses shift. He has taken it from a technology brand to a lifestyle; a way of life that people conform to with almost cult-like status. With a bright future outlined, you wouldn’t bet against the company’s trillion-dollar market cap returning in the near future – he really is Cooking up a storm.