Tim Cook turned Apple into a ‘boring operations company,’ says former engineer

A former Apple engineer has accused Tim Cook of turning Apple ‘from a dynamic change-maker into a boring operations company.’ In particular, he says that by seeking to avoid conflict between teams, Apple has lost the dynamism that led to the creation of the iPhone …

Bob Burrough made the accusation in a tweetstorm and then expanded on his comments to CNBC.

“At Apple in 2007, organizationally it was the wild west,” Burrough said. “I was hired under a particular manager, but for the first two years worked on projects that had virtually nothing to do with that manager’s core responsibility. That’s because the organization wasn’t the priority, the projects were the priority. It was the exact opposite of ‘not my job.’ It was ‘I’m here to solve whatever problems I can, irrespective of my role, my title, or to whom I report.’ It was wild. But it was also very rewarding, because everything you did had maximal impact on the product.”

But today, the “dynamic has clearly and distinctly changed,” and Apple is much closer to his job at Palm, said Burrough. [At Palm,] “there was a clear sense that each person had a clear responsibility, and rarely deviated from it. When you went to someone for help solving a problem ‘not my job’ was a common response.”

Aysmco analyst Horace Dediu briefly disagreed with Burrough, stating that invention and innovation and different things. Business Insider notes that Dediu recently argued this case at a conference, suggesting that Apple is deliberately trying to move away from a business that has quiet periods interspersed by occasional hit products.

“I think Apple management has been trying to de-emphasise the hit-driven business. That’s not to say they’re not going to have more hits, but they don’t want the company to be seen as a hits business. One of the big audiences that Tim [CEO Tim Cook] has is actually internal employee morale. I think the hit-driven mindset is demoralizing internally, and there is a concerted effort to tone down this ‘Let’s hit home runs’ mind-set.”

Instead, he argued, Apple is focused in recurring revenue as it’s easier to grow the business this way that rely on the uncertainty of occasional new product categories.

Dediu estimates that Apple customers pay between 78 cents and $1 per day to stay on Apple’s devices and services […]

New product launches are risky. If they fail to move the needle – i.e. Apple Watch – then you are back where you started. But persuade the average Apple customer to buy a few more things every year, and you have moved their spending from 78 cents per day to 88 cents per day and added 10% in revenues out of nowhere: That would add $22 billion to Apple’s topline sales, annually.

CNBC noted that father of the iPod Tony Fadell, commenting earlier on Apple having two teams exploring different operating systems for the iPhone, disagrees that the Steve Jobs era company operated on conflict.

It is, of course, a recurring debate – but one often fuelled by the myth that Apple was inventing new product categories on an annual basis. We insert here our usual reminder that the Mac was launched in 1984, the iPod in 2001, iPhone in 2007, and iPad in 2010.

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