Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level is a title I grabbed off the display shelf at my local Cuyahoga County Library branch way back before the shutdown. It sat un-read for quite a while. I enjoy biographies, but it wasn’t a priority. After all, its Tim Cook, and not Steve Jobs right? Wrong! Not far into the book, I realized that I was not giving Tim Cook enough credit for Apple’s continued success since the death of Jobs in 2011. I was also reminded that Apple is a more “responsible” and “civic” company since Tim Cook became CEO.

The author is Leander Kahney who has written Inside Steve’s Brain and Johnny Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. I enjoyed both of those titles. Kahney is a well-known technology writer about Apple who is the editor and publisher of the blog, Cult of Mac and a former managing editor of WIRED News.

It was interesting to read about events in Apple’s history from Tim Cook’s executive level point of view. As an Apple consultant working with users and their Apple devices, I was recalling those same events from a desktop point of the view. I personally observed that history day to day and could agree or disagree with Kahney’s conclusions from real life. Reading this book was illuminating and at the same time a trip down memory lane.

The book starts off with the death of Steve Jobs and the status of Apple in 1991. At that point, Tim was already an Apple veteran with 13 years of service. The iPhone had only been in existence for four years under the management of Steve. Since his passing, Apple has become the first company to reach a trillion dollars. The wearables business (Apple Watch, AirPods, Beats headphones) is new under the watch of Tim Cook, and the services business has grown exponentially. My stock has done quite well also. Apple has continued to develop innovative products and new business categories after Steve. At the time of Steve’s death, most industry followers expected Apple to languish and flounder.

Leander explained that Tim Cook established six unofficial core principles for the way he runs Apple. The principles: Accessibility, Education, Environment, Inclusion and Diversity, Privacy, and Supplier Responsibility are addressed in every chapter. Links for these principles are listed in the footer of Apple’s home page. Each link explains how these values were developed and how they are expressed in the way Tim runs Apple.

The successes described in the book are supported with plenty of facts. Some facts I knew, some I was reminded of, and others were new. I appreciated having the culture of Apple being well described and explained. Apple’s failings were mentioned and described also, but those had a “fan boy” feel to them. Either the problems were fixed thanks to Tim Cook being a genius or punches were pulled about the areas where Apple still has room for improvement.

In my opinion, Apple has made progress in the area of Inclusion and Diversity by making their keynotes more diverse, and has made financial contributions to good causes, but there is still has room for improvement at the executive level and in staffing overall. The working conditions of Apple’s suppliers has improved and moved out of the headlines, but I suspect there are more improvements needed under the surface. Apple has made improvements with their packaging, materials in their products, and use of renewable energy. I can speak about repairability from personal experience and have some serious disagreements with some product design choices. I can see no logical reason why the iMac screen needs to be glued on and why upgrading storage is so difficult. I get it for iPhones and iPads and laptops where thinness is advantageous, but for desktops it seems unnecessary and even spiteful.

Each chapter in the book discusses one topic. The chapters cover:

  • Tim’s worldview shaped by growing up in the deep south
  • His learning of the computer trade working at IBM
  • Joining Apple way back when it was near bankruptcy
  • Saving Apple though outsourcing
  • Transitioning into Steve’s shoes
  • Finding his footing with popular new products
  • Making Apple greener
  • Fighting the laws about privacy
  • Doubling down on diversity, robot cars and the future
  • And discussing whether Tim might be Apple’s best CEO

I enjoyed learning about Tim Cook and appreciated reminiscing about Apple’s history. It was well worth reading and hopefully a good start on writing some additional book reviews that I would like to post to the CDPUG blog…and maybe even lead to a CDPUG Book Club which would make me happy. Other titles I have read and would like to write about include Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination, Jim Henson: The Biography, and George Lucas: A Life all by Brian Jay Jones as well as The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer.

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