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From the New York Times' Tripp Mickle, the dramatic, untold story inside Apple after the passing of Steve Jobs by following his top lieutenants—Jony Ive, the Chief Design Officer, and Tim Cook, the COO-turned-CEO—and how the fading of the former and the rise of the latter led to Apple losing its soul.
Steve Jobs called Jony Ive his “spiritual partner at Apple.” The London-born genius was the second-most powerful person at Apple and the creative force who most embodies Jobs’s spirit, the man who designed the products adopted by hundreds of millions the world over: the iPod, iPad, MacBook Air, the iMac G3, and the iPhone. In the wake of his close collaborator’s death, the chief designer wrestled with grief and initially threw himself into his work designing the new Apple headquarters and the Watch before losing his motivation in a company increasingly devoted more to margins than to inspiration.
In many ways, Cook was Ive’s opposite. The product of a small Alabama town, he had risen through the ranks from the supply side of the company. His gift was not the creation of new products. Instead, he had invented countless ways to maximize a margin, squeezing some suppliers, persuading others to build factories the size of cities to churn out more units. He considered inventory evil. He knew how to make subordinates sweat with withering questions.
Jobs selected Cook as his successor, and Cook oversaw a period of tremendous revenue growth that has lifted Apple’s valuation to $2 trillion. He built a commanding business in China and rapidly distinguished himself as a master politician who could forge global alliances and send the world’s stock market into freefall with a single sentence.
Author Tripp Mickle spoke with more than 200 current and former Apple executives, as well as figures key to this period of Apple’s history, including Trump administration officials and fashion luminaries such as Anna Wintour while writing After Steve. His research shows the company’s success came at a cost. Apple lost its innovative spirit and has not designed a new category of device in years. Ive’s departure in 2019 marked a culmination in Apple’s shift from a company of innovation to one of operational excellence, and the price is a company that has lost its soul.
Wall Street Journal reporter Mickle draws from interviews with 200 current and former Apple employees, suppliers, and competitors for his insightful debut, an unsparing take on the company's post Steve Jobs era. From the jump, Mickle makes his perspective clear: by 2019, design innovation had taken the backseat, and "the creative soul of Apple had been eclipsed by the machine." Privacy, "fend off the government's" attacks, and fortunes to be made from "endless supply of cheap labor" became the priority. This shift, Mickle argues, is in large part the result of tension between the two men who led the company post-Jobs: chief design officer Jony Ive ("Apple's high priest") and COO-turned-CEO Tim Cook. Mickle covers both men's early work and details their efforts to change the company after Jobs's death in 2011. Those years included fiascoes the initially faulty Apple Maps app, for example and saw "tremendous revenue growth that had lifted valuation to $1 trillion." Most of all, Mickle writes, turning over the company to Cook, an operations man with mediocre showmanship skills rather than a design guy had the greatest impact in changing the company's focus. There has been plenty written about Jobs and Apple; this sets itself apart with its shrewd look at how and why the company's culture shifted. Apple devotees and skeptics alike will find much to consider. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Rostan.