Apple CEO Tim Cook is known to be an excellent communicator, and it was on full display this week as he navigated Elon Musk’s slew of accusations against Apple. A new report from Financial Times this weekend offers a deeper look at how former Apple executives view Cook’s skills, with the caveat that there is one problem he has yet to solve…
The past week has been a whirlwind when it comes to the relationship between Elon Musk and Apple. The new Twitter owner started the week with a series of rapid-fire tweets accusing Apple and Tim Cook of stopping their ad spending on Twitter, suggesting they “hate free speech.”[ads1];
For Apple, it was something of a PR nightmare, as Musk encouraged his army of followers to start a “revolution against online censorship in America” and urged Apple to “publicize any censorship actions they’ve taken that affect their customers.”
Musk also said that Apple had “threatened to withhold Twitter from the App Store”, but would not explain why. Instead of engaging publicly, Tim Cook privately invited Musk to Apple Park for a meeting. Musk then took to Twitter to thank Cook for the meeting and tour of Apple Park, adding that it was all a “misunderstanding”.
The Financial Times spoke to a “former Apple veteran of more than 10 years” regarding Cook’s ability to reassure someone like Musk:
“I’m sure Tim charmed him,” the person said. “He wanted to hear [Musk] out. And I’m sure Tim gave his perspective. That’s what Tim does: he rolls up his sleeves and fixes problems. He is not in major public disputes, whether it is a PR dispute or something more contentious. That’s not his MO. He’s not like Elon.”
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak added that Cook’s “best skill is just understanding the need to take care of everybody” and “being multidisciplinary and not having a favorite.”
John Sculley, who left as Apple CEO before Steve Jobs returned to the company, elaborated further:
“The first trillion dollars came from Jobs and Ive, the next trillion came from what Tim Cook has done. He does it quietly and doesn’t draw attention to himself, but he does a remarkable job. When you hold an iPhone in hand, the names that immediately come to mind are Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, but the contributions Tim Cook has made are just as relevant.”
The China problem
But with all that said, the Financial Times notes the biggest crisis Tim Cook has yet to solve — or even publicly comment on. Apple relies heavily on China for manufacturing, and as we’ve covered in recent weeks, its primary “iPhone City” has been rocked by Covid shutdowns and protests.
Apple also made the controversial decision to limit the functionality of AirDrop in China after protesters used the feature to spread material in opposition to the Chinese government.
A report from The Wall Street Journal says that Apple is pressing ahead with efforts to diversify its supply chain outside of China. While it does, however, China will remain an incredibly important market segment for Apple in terms of iPhone sales.
During a visit to Washington DC this week to meet with lawmakers and attend the White House state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron, Cook was asked by a reporter “if he supports the right of Chinese citizens to protest.” He did not answer.
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