Tim Cook’s Apple: the one Apple story to read today

Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Credit: Bowen Liu/Apple Inc. via Bloomberg

The biggest challenge for Apple over the next several years will be how it adjusts under the leadership of Tim Cook. We’ve seen bits and pieces of what this new era means for Apple, but Fortune writer Adam Lashinsky has a cover story on Thursday that pulls it all together and is chock-full of fascinating details about how Apple is changing with him at the helm.

We’ve deviated from our usual roundup of must-read Apple coverage to highlight the story by Lashinsky, who wrote a book last year called Inside Apple. Here are the five most interesting details from the story that any Apple watcher should take note of:

  • Wall Street loves Cook. Not only has the stock skyrocketed since Cook took over as permanent CEO in August, but he has given investors their long-awaited dividend, and he actually, like, talks to investors. And they love him for all of those things. Said one Goldman Sachs analyst: “By any quantitative measure, so far his performance is phenomenal.”
  • Cook has embraced corporate types. He’s brought in a lot of MBA-toting new employees to Apple. And it’s not a real surprise, given his background as COO, that he’s emphasizing operational efficiency. But some are starting to wonder if efficiency is becoming more of a priority compared to engineering creativity. One former long-time Apple engineer is quoted as saying, “It looks like it has become a more conservative execution engine rather than a pushing-the-envelope engineering engine.”
  • He’s a communicator. He was recently photographed meeting with Speaker John Boehner in Washington, D.C. But Lashinsky reports that he told several high-ranking politicians that he wanted to be “personally accessible to them.” The same seems to be true of his employees — he’ll randomly sit down to lunch with them at the Cupertino campus’s cafeteria — and his partners — he personally visited a Foxconn plant in the aftermath of the public outcry over working conditions there.
  • He is not scary. Siri isn’t a finished product and has understandably had bugs. That would not have gone over well were Steve Jobs around, notes one employee. And whereas in the Jobs era employees feared him, some Apple employees now seem a little more relaxed, as he tells in one anecdote about an engineer who didn’t feel like he had to rush back to work right after lunch anymore. And the annual retreat for the company’s 100 best performers was actually considered fun this year and not as stressful as it had been under Jobs.
  • He is shepherding the creation of new products that employees like. At the top performers retreat, those in attendance got a look at future products. One veteran executive was “blown away” while others “came away totally comfortable with where the company is headed.”
The main takeway: Cook is doing his own thing, and that means doing things differently than Jobs. The changes he’s instituted clearly make a lot of investors happy and life as an Apple employee sounds a little less terrifying. But it’s still too soon to tell if either of those things will do what many fear: transform Apple into an ordinary company.
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