Apple just earned more profit in a single quarter than any company, ever, and the hacks in Silicon Valley press are fawning all over CEO Tim Cook and praising his genius. But you know what? They're right. Tim Cook is a brilliant CEO. He may, in fact, be way better at running Apple than Steve Jobs was. Let's discuss.
When Cook took over in 2011, most people figured Apple would lose some of its magic. In a way that's true. Apple is less interesting without Steve Jobs. Its events are not as exciting. Cook doesn't have the cult leader charisma that Jobs possessed.
But holy crap can this guy make money. Apple generated nearly $75 billion in revenue last quarter, and kept $18 billion in net profit. Apple now has $178 billion in cash, enough to buy a lot of huge companies, like Intel, outright.
Key to all of this is the iPhone. Apple sold 75 million of them in the holiday quarter. As for Apple's other products, "Some are up. Some are down. But they're all just sideshows to the iPhone's center stage," as VentureBeat puts it. Sure, Cook has made mistakes, like the iPhone 5c, but those have been relatively insignificant.
The real news is that the iPhone is now almost eight years old and it keeps getting better and this shows no signs of slowing down. The iPhone is even crushing it in China. What you don't see are all the zillions of little calls and decisions that Cook has had to make correctly in order to produce a quarter like the one Apple just reported.
When Cook took over, the conventional wisdom was that he would be perfectly fine, but bland, and that Apple's momentum would carry the company for a few years and then things would start to fizzle out. I was one of the people who believed that. I was wrong.
In fact, Apple is booming. Here's an interesting figure. The last quarter when Jobs was officially the CEO of Apple was the holiday quarter of 2010. In that quarter Apple reported revenues of $26.7 billion and net profit of $6 billion.
That's right: Apple today is roughly three times its size when Cook took over.
Also, look beyond the numbers. Look at culture. Cook got rid of some assholes, like Scott Forstall, who was tight with Jobs but hated by everyone else.
Cook also has come out and said what everyone knew, which was that he's gay. He's been a strong supporter for LGBT rights and led 5,000 Apple employees who marched in the San Francisco Gay Pride parade.
He has expressed a commitment to sustainability, and when some dickhead challenged him about this at a shareholder meeting and said Apple should focus only on making as much profit as possible, Cook told him that Apple would do what was right and that if the guy didn't like it he should get out of the stock.
Losing Steve Jobs was a terrible thing. And, as everyone pointed out, Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs.
But at this point in Apple's history, the challenge is not so much about inventing huge new products and generating excitement and suspense at events. Rather the challenge involves improving a mature product and operating at a massive scale. For that job, Cook turns out to be the perfect person.