Tripp Mickle wrote "After Steve: How Apple became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul".
The iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air and the iPad redefined their product categories. The most important was the iPhone. Every other company that sells expensive phones was forced to copy Apple's design. Within a few years, all three of them were gutted. At the end of 2010, Apple had a record of hardware innovation that no other electronics firm could match. Including the Apple of 2020.
Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founding spirit, died in 2011. Jony Ive, the British-born designer-savant, and Tim Cook, the child of Alabama who became a master of supply, took over.
The cast of characters runs to four pages in the book, which traces the evolution and end of Ive and Cook's partnership. Ive and Cook did not agree to speak to the author about the Apple culture.
Ive oversaw the design of a new line of computers with candy-colored transparent cases. When the iMac was launched in 1998, Jobs said that it looked like it was from another planet, a good planet with better designers. Apple was saved. It had to grow.
Cook was brought in by Jobs to change Apple's inefficient production line. Cook, who ran the supply chain for Compaq, was demanding and detail-oriented. Cook calmly asked, "How would you get to a thousand?" when his staff presented a plan to increase inventory turnover from 25 times a year to 100.
Ive was demanding of both his colleagues and external suppliers. In one meeting, I was shown a piece of polished aluminum for a laptop case, and I became upset at the small imperfections that were barely visible to the others. One of his colleagues gave Ive a red Sharpie and told him to circle what was wrong. Ive was a corporate infighter, and he would dip this in it and wipe off the things that were right. If they talked too loudly or mentioned costs, he revoked their access to the design wing. A source in H.R. told Mickle that they hid staff from Ive to keep them from being fired.
It's not enough to create a great product. There was uncertainty about what the Next Big Thing would be after Jobs died. Home automation, health care devices, self-driving cars, televisions and various headphones were some of the things explored. The Apple Watch would be the center of Apple's device work for most of Ive's remaining tenure.
Designers defined how a product would look and had an outsize voice in its functions, but I had been the key figure in product design for years, Mickle writes. Staff began summing up their power in a single phrase. The leather for the wristband was made from tanneries across Europe. I requested a new 18-karat alloy that was twice as durable as ordinary gold, and I got it.
The watch will not be the Next Big Thing as the story unfolds. The watch shifts from a screen on your wrist into a fashion object as Ive acquires more control than he had over the iPhone. The creation of a $17,000 model, a product event in Paris, and meetings with the Vogue editor are just some of the things that run alongside reduced expectations for its health tracking and battery life. The reader has seen it coming, one decision at a time, by the time it finally launches and sales fall short of projections.
In comparison to Ive's project, Cook faced a lot of events. He was called before Congress. He apologized for the poor performance in the first iteration of Apple Maps. The fire broke out frequently in theSamsungGalaxy, an Apple competitor. China Mobile, the country's largest telecom, signaled interest in selling the device. While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven't publicly acknowledged it, until now. He was the first C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company to come out. He was the first leader of a public company worth a trillion dollars. Then two trillion. Then three.
Mickle shows us how Apple grew from Ive's success in the 2000s to become Cook's company in the 2010s. Ive, long since knighted, becomes more and more interested in opportunities outside of Apple, and will go part time in 2015. Cook tries to convince him to come back, but his heart isn't in it. I will leave for good in 2019.
Mickle drops his reporter's responsibility for the firm's failure to launch another product in the epilogue. Cook is blamed for being a bad partner for Ive, an artist who wanted to bring empathy to every product.
The best evidence for that is the previous 400 pages. After Jobs died, Apple didn't produce another device that was as important as the iPhone, but they did produce another device that was important before he died. Cook did not play the role of C.E.O. as Jobs had, but no one ever thought he could, and Jobs advised Cook not to ask what Steve would do.
Ive and Cook wanted another device, but there wasn't one for them. Self-driving cars were too hard, health devices too regulated, television protected in ways music had not been, and even the earbuds and watch, devices they actually shipped, were peripheral, technically and conceptually, to Apple's greatest product.
The book is an amazing depiction of the permanent tension between strategy and luck, as companies make their own history, but they do not make it as they please. After Steve, Cook's greatest opportunities were in Apple's future. Cook adapted brilliantly when the Next Big Thing was built on top of the Last Big Thing. He did what Jobs told him to do, but in a way that put less of a premium on the kind of work Ive was best at. There is no moral in that story. One of the most beloved firms in the world could not make its most talented employees successful at the same time.
Clay is a professor at N.Y.U. and the author of Little Rice: Smartphones,Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream.
Tripp Mickle wrote How Apple became a Trillion-Dollar Company and lost its soul. The price is William Morrow.