10 ways Tim Cook has made Apple his company

If you had any notions that Tim Cook is playing from Steve Jobs's playbook, forget it

Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

It's been nearly three years since Tim Cook took on one of the most unenviable challenges in the tech world: to become the first successful CEO of Apple not named Steve Jobs.

For a while, it looked like Cook was not really taking the bull by the horns. But in recent months it has become clear that Tim Cook is firmly in charge and putting his own stamp on the company. Stand or fall, he will be his own man.

Here are 10 ways we know we're firmly in the Tim Cook Era.

[ Read the article version: Ten signs Apple is Tim Cook’s company now ]

Tim Cook (L) and Craig Federighi (R) at this year's WWDC. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Embracing the enterprise

Steve Jobs once told Walt Mossberg how he "hated" the enterprise, because enterprise customers tend to want input into products. They also want to know a company's roadmap for the next few years so they can make product purchasing decisions.

Jobs wanted no part of that. Cook, an ex-IBMer, is very different. He recognized the BYOD phenomenon was bringing Apple into the enterprise. At the recent WWDC show, Senior Vice President Craig Federighi said Apple's iOS devices are in 98% of the enterprises "and we want the other two percent." He went on to give a long list of Apple's future enterprise plans around iOS.

Apple introduced the new Swift programming language at this year's WWDC conference. MacWorld

Dumping Objective-C

Jobs licensed Objective-C for his Next Computer project, and kept with it even after the hardware was abandoned. When Apple purchased Next, Objective-C became the de facto development language. Objective-C, though, is an old language with a history dating back to Smalltalk. It was created before C++ really took off, and it's a tough language to master.

Swift, a replacement for Objective-C, was introduced at WWDC and is already gaining traction with developers for being lighter, faster, and having a lot more built-in security. Many classes of errors will be impossible, reducing the number of crashes. This language was needed and it's doubtful Jobs would have given it the green light.

Stock splits and dividends

There was a reason for Jobs's cash hoarding. In 1998, he realized Apple was weeks from going broke and he had to go to Microsoft to beg for a lifeline. Bill Gates threw it without rubbing it in Jobs's face too much, at least publically. It was humiliating for Jobs, according to his biographer Walter Issacson, and he vowed never to let that happen again. That's why Apple hoards billions in cash.

Dividends are good for investors and many use that money to buy more stock, so it becomes a mutually helpful cycle. With Jobs's passing, this has been instituted by Cook, along with charitable donations, which was his first move as CEO.

A kinder, gentler office

Steve Jobs was a notorious tyrant, and nothing terrified employees more than sharing an elevator ride with him because he would immediately start peppering the hapless employee with "What do you do here?" types of questions.

The Wall Street Journal says the office environment is not as draconian. Employees from different product groups can sit together and have lunch and not fear for their jobs. Cook is much more even tempered and the 90 hour weeks are over. Incredibly, some people actually don't like this and there are reports of more Apple resumes floating around than ever before.     

Tim Cook takes the stage at WWDC, June 11, 2012. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Out of the limelight

Jobs was supposed to hate the spotlight, but that's not entirely true. He liked it when he could control it. When Apple held an event, it was pretty much Steve Jobs on stage from start to finish, with maybe breaks as guests spoke. Not Cook. He is a consensus builder who has surrounded himself with a team of executives and decisions are made together. And he's willing to step back a bit and share the spotlight.

At WWDC, SVP of software engineering Craig Federghi spent more time on stage than anyone. He gave such a great performance, many people were calling him Cook's successor. In a September 2013 cover story for BloombergBusinessweek, Cook was joined by Federghi and design chief Johnny Ive.

More corporate

Before, the engineers ran the show at Apple. Jobs handled business affairs, like mergers and acquisitions, himself. Not anymore. Two years ago, long-time Apple watcher Adam Lashansky noted in a lengthy 2012 piece that the MBAs were taking over.

This has led to some whining from the engineers who no longer rule the roost. "I've been told that any meeting of significance is now always populated by project management and global-supply management," said Max Paley, a former engineering vice president who worked at Apple for 14 years.  "When I was there, engineering decided what we wanted, and it was the job of product management and supply management to go get it. It shows a shift in priority."

Tim Cook in a Foxconn Factory during his visit to China. IDG News Service

Tackled corporate issues

The New York Times ran a devastating article in January 2012 on the appalling working conditions in Foxconn plant in China that assembles most of Apple's products. These stories had floated around before, and Jobs just blew them off. Cook flew to China and visited the factory himself, and was photographed at every turn.

A year later, Cook faced off with another bunch of iron-fisted hardliners: Congress. He testified before a Senate committee investigating the corporate trick of keeping foreign sales offshore so they don't have to pay taxes. He wasn't compelled to appear, and you can bet Jobs wouldn't have showed up. Cook stood his ground in the face of utter sanctimony and BloombergBusinessweek praised him for it.

New types of advertising

Traditionally, Apple ads never actually mentioned the product by name. Even the "Get a Mac" ads rarely mentioned Macs. There was the infamous silhouette ads with people dancing while wearing iPods, white wires flapping around.

Tim tried something different with recent ads and they really blew up in his face. A series of "Genius" ads ran during the 2012 Olympics and people "despised them. Then came the Siri ads, which also proved embarrassing, especially the one with Zooey Deschenel. The only thing good about that commercial was the parody video it spawned.

This showed Cook taking a chance and doing something different, even if it did fail.

A pedestrian walks past a Beats brand display. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Beats purchase

Apple made plenty of purchases, but they were always small. The two largest were Next in 1997, which brought Jobs back to the company, and PA Semi in 2008, which eventually lead to the Ax ARM processor line in the iPhone and iPad.

The Beats purchase was Cook thinking big. Some joked that it was appropriate that Apple would pay too much for mediocre hardware. But Cook wasn't after the headphones -- he wanted the streaming music service Beats was building.

That too seems an odd decision, because Beats Music has had a very slow start. Hopefully, this is not the start of Cook making some bad, Steve Ballmer-like massively overpriced acquisitions.

Scott Forstall speaks about the iPhone 5 during Apple Inc.'s iPhone media event in San Francisco, California September 12, 2012. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Admitting mistakes

Steve Jobs would sooner go to In-n-Out Burger than admit a mistake. That's not the way Cook does things. You own up to mistakes under Tim Cook's leadership, you don't just blame people. When Apple released its own mapping software, anxious to be rid of Google's, it was an embarrassment on par with the MobileMe debacle. Jobs fired the MobileMe manager in front of the whole team in a fit of misplaced blame.

Cook only fired Scott Forstall, the SVP in charge of iOS, for refusing to sign an apology letter to consumers over the maps mess. Forstall, whom many thought would be a future CEO, was fired for his refusal to apologize.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.