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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > MacNN Lounge > If there ever was a time for a new Apple CEO, now might be it?

If there ever was a time for a new Apple CEO, now might be it?
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besson3c
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Oct 9, 2011, 03:07 PM
 
Having processed Jobs' passing, I'm starting to think that ultimately this might be a good thing for Apple in the long run. I know that I sound very callous saying that any sort of death is "good", so please understand the spirit of this is not intended to be insensitive towards his passing or disrespectful of his incredible work, but more of a cold and hard look at the long term future of Apple as a company.

Steve Jobs understood PCs, devices, how people use them, usability, good software, etc. He was the perfect CEO to help with this post-PC transition, and I realize that it is far too premature to conclude this transition as being complete, but what comes next?

Whatever comes next, I think that a more youthful perspective on this might help Apple at some point in the not-too-distant-future. I realize that when one thinks of youthful they don't think of Tim Cook, but a youthful perspective could simply involve being receptive to the ideas of young engineers around him. I'm sure Steve Jobs was, but to an extent. I'd argue that Apple missed out on the earlier days of cloud computing/software in the cloud, as well as social networking. Maybe these were simply areas that were deemed outside of Apple's area of focus, but I'd also argue that in the case of web stuff/the cloud Apple would have benefited greatly from embracing this earlier (think of all of the half-baked iterations of iTools/.Mac/MobileMe).

There may be opportunities that Apple will need to cease early before some other competitor can take the field and dominate it, giving Apple an uphill battle if they wish to effectively compete. I'm unsure of whether the being late to the party but getting it right strategy will consistently yield good results, particularly as the company has to play catch up in terms of having the people that understand this technology, the needed infrastructure, etc.

I'm not even sure how much of what I've written here I fully believe, I realize that some of this is at least a little flimsy, but what I do fully believe is that at some point, old people + technology is a bad mix, and that healthy companies pass themselves on to new generations. Apple's CEO needs to not only be receptive to emerging technologies and the world around him, but also able to fully process the ideas being brought to him by Apple's young think tanks. This isn't to say that overall Jobs struggled with this, he didn't, but how many more years did Jobs have in him before there was question over whether his ideas were out-of-touch? Could you imagine a 66 year old Steve Jobs as CEO? Would Steve Jobs have stood down on his own once this time came?

I think that he probably would have figured all of this out and retired when the time was right, but the point is that there was an inevitability in the not-too-distant-future, and at some point perhaps Apple would best benefit from younger blood and passing on the torch, so-to-speak? That passing on the torch thing would have probably been very difficult for Jobs, as it would be for anyone that gave their life to the company.
     
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Oct 9, 2011, 03:32 PM
 
You do realize Apple has already inked a bajillion dollar stock bonus with Cook for him to stay on for 10yrs, right?
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besson3c  (op)
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Oct 9, 2011, 03:50 PM
 
Originally Posted by Lateralus View Post
You do realize Apple has already inked a bajillion dollar stock bonus with Cook for him to stay on for 10yrs, right?
Yup! He's six years younger than Jobs, which granted is fairly insignificant, but perhaps noteworthy... Apple might have some of the same challenges I'm speaking too here, or not.

I realize that these matters are far too complex to put into some overly simplistic old = sluggish box, there are a gazillion factors, but I think the most important one will be being able to see that sluggishness and being able to do something about it without letting egos get in the way.

At some point Apple is going to have to pass the torch on to younger generations of owners, and I think that transition would be understandably very hard for Jobs.
     
turtle777
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Oct 9, 2011, 07:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
At some point Apple is going to have to pass the torch on to younger generations of owners, and I think that transition would be understandably very hard for Jobs.
I think that's a false assumption.

Younger doesn't always mean better.

Did Steve's genius decrease over time, in other words, was he more of a genius 25 years ago than 5 years ago ? No. Age doesn't necessarily matter.

So, to say that Cook can't be a good CEO for Apple because he's too old is really nonsensical.

-t
     
besson3c  (op)
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Oct 9, 2011, 07:57 PM
 
Turtle, do you think that what you said is so up to a point, or is there no age that is relevant? You'd be okay with an 80 year old CEO of Apple?

I realize that the decline is different for everybody, but generally speaking...
     
Athens
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Oct 9, 2011, 08:50 PM
 
Cook is well groomed to continue what Steve started. Now is not the time for change. If anything in the past shows, change can lead to horrible outcomes for Apple. Apple is in its good position right now because its not doing what ever one else does. If we brought in a new CEO with the standard way thinking we will quickly see a 50-100 products from Apple. They will try and fit every corner of the market from low end to high end. They will would race to the bottom like any other company. It would just become another computer company. Sure we might see some good things us consumers want like a licensed OS X so we could get cheaper Mac Clones. Maybe a dozen phone lines from the inexpensive and crippled to the top end do all with every feature you can put into it.

Either way its the current team that makes up the entire pie, Tim Cook is just one slice of a pie. As long as all the other units function Apple will do ok. The question is in 10 years from now how many of the current Pie will still be in place. What happens when its all replaced over time. Thats when Apple's magic will die. I started on Mac in 1992 as a 12 year old. I stuck through Apple during its worst years in the 90's when every one thought the company was going to die myself included. Even though my 603e 180mhz PPC was less then half the mhz of new cheaper PC's I stuck with it. Even though OS 7, 8 and 9 crashed a lot, I still preferred it to windows 95, 98 and ME. Because it was still better even if the company itself was making bad choices which was killing it on its operations. I now have a very indepth ecosystem with Apple at home with iPhone, AppleTV, Apps, Mac's and as long as Apple does not break the ecosystem I can't imagine myself switching any time in the long term either. Because I can't see Microsoft getting the ecosystem correct.

For me, and this is the most important part of my post. Its not about how big Apple is. I couldn't care less if Apple dominated another area. Its about its stuff working for me. And I don't want a CEO that will chaise after every market to make the company as big as possible. I want the products to stay true to what they are now, simple, working well together and just working. Apple could go back to being a super small company but still profitable and I would be just as happy as long as the products keep coming out working right.
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Oct 9, 2011, 09:38 PM
 
Steve had over a decade to teach Tim how to do what he does, as well as that sort of thing can be taught. It may be that Steve taught different aspects of his role to different people and that Tim will continue to make the decisions he always has regarding suppliers and logistics, I don't know. The key thing is that Steve will have groomed Tim for the job as best he could which is why he has been given the massive stock for long service deal. Put simply, he is the closest thing to Jobs they could get.

The decisions that Steve made that helped keep Apple products different from the rest were not usually complicated ones, but they can be considered hard ones. Not hard to make once you understand the reasons, but I suspect very hard to get past a board of directors or shareholders. Steve was never afraid to turn down certain avenues of revenue that others have always failed to resist.
Take the classic 'Intel Inside' stickers. Intel offers its customers massive incentives in exchange for putting that sticker on every box shipped, I believe tens of millions in advertising is the typical deal. Taking this deal is a no-brainer in standard business practices. Very few CEOs would turn this deal down and even fewer boards would let them get away with it if they did. In fact there is only one CEO who would and only his board would trust him enough to let him.
The same goes for R&D projects that never come to fruition. Most companies would ship an inferior product to make back some of the research spend, Steve would just can the project and forget about it. It will be interesting to see if Tim is brave enough to make decisions like this and if the board is willing to let him.
Steve got kicked out of Apple by a board and a CEO who were typical of every other board and every other CEO. He got asked back because it turned out that he was right all along and he then went on to wildly exceed everyone's expectations. This meant that basically any decision he made was going to be backed by the board. Tim has no such history of being right and I suspect the board will not be quite so keen to support his decisions as they were Steve's.
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turtle777
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Oct 9, 2011, 09:41 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Turtle, do you think that what you said is so up to a point, or is there no age that is relevant? You'd be okay with an 80 year old CEO of Apple?

I realize that the decline is different for everybody, but generally speaking...
Generally, yes, but that doesn't necessarily apply to very smart and intelligent people. Some of them stay sharp until high ages.

-t
     
besson3c  (op)
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Oct 9, 2011, 09:53 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Generally, yes, but that doesn't necessarily apply to very smart and intelligent people. Some of them stay sharp until high ages.

-t

I agree, but I'm wondering if things are also slightly different with high tech stuff. I mean, how many 60+ year olds do you know of that are down with cloud computing?
     
turtle777
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Oct 9, 2011, 10:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
I agree, but I'm wondering if things are also slightly different with high tech stuff. I mean, how many 60+ year olds do you know of that are down with cloud computing?
I'd only be worried if Steve or Tim were expected to code themselves.

-t
     
besson3c  (op)
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Oct 9, 2011, 10:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by Athens View Post
Cook is well groomed to continue what Steve started. Now is not the time for change. If anything in the past shows, change can lead to horrible outcomes for Apple. Apple is in its good position right now because its not doing what ever one else does. If we brought in a new CEO with the standard way thinking we will quickly see a 50-100 products from Apple. They will try and fit every corner of the market from low end to high end. They will would race to the bottom like any other company. It would just become another computer company. Sure we might see some good things us consumers want like a licensed OS X so we could get cheaper Mac Clones. Maybe a dozen phone lines from the inexpensive and crippled to the top end do all with every feature you can put into it.

Just for clarity sake, I'm not suggesting that a new CEO should start changing stuff. The opposite, actually.

I also don't have any strong opinions about CEO ages and their performance.

What I wonder though is whether Cook is sort of the guy to help nurture and develop Apple in the post-PC era, and whether they get somebody much younger 10 years later or so to grow with Apple on the next thing? I'm thinking about this very long term, I don't expect Tim Cook (as great as he very well may be) to CEO of Apple into his 70s. If he is, I don't think he would be the face of Apple. I would think that it's pretty hard to sell hi-tech stuff as a 70 year old dude, or even over 60 or so. Steve could have done it because of his legacy and because of his charisma, but he was a very special case.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Oct 9, 2011, 10:18 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I'd only be worried if Steve or Tim were expected to code themselves.

-t

Well, like I said, Steve was Steve... He had a legacy and a hell of a lot of charisma. Cook could build his own celebrity image too, but if he is just your nice competent mild mannered CEO type without the same sex appeal, I think it will be rather hard for Apple to sell hi tech stuff to youngsters if a 70 year old Cook is the face of Apple.

Maybe the CEO being the face of the company is a pretty unusual thing, I don't know. Maybe he wasn't really the face, but when I think of Apple one strong image that comes to mind is the jeans and black turtleneck, and the keynote stage - the whole Steve Jobs thing.

The stress levels of being CEO might also make it difficult for anybody to be kicking ass giving keynotes when they are 70.

Again, thank you for not jumping all over my ass people, I'm still formulating and fine tuning my thinking here.
     
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:02 AM
 
Age is less important then is background. Gotta remember a lot of people who are 70 now where 30 in the 1970 before cell phones, before gaming systems, before personal computers.

Those of us who are 30 now will be 70 year olds in 2050 and I can promise you we will be far more technical in our 70's then our current generation of 70 year olds. (Assuming we live to our 70s the way our food and environment is changing)

Tim Cook is younger then Steve Jobs, was a 30 year old during the heart of the computer revolution with personal computers and has been with Apple during its entire rebirth from 1998 to now. I can't think of a better person for the job. Hes healthy, Fit, and smart and have been a back end member for a long time of Apple. By your reasoning, Steve would have not been able to continue doing his great things at 70 either. 70 is the new 50 anyways. As people live longer and healthier the conceptions of age and ability will change too. When Tim is 70 I bet he wont look a day over 55.

Wanted to Add I think great people continue doing great things up until there last breath. I have no reason to second guess any one of the Apple team over the long term.
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besson3c  (op)
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:07 AM
 
Originally Posted by Athens View Post
Age is less important then is background. Gotta remember a lot of people who are 70 now where 30 in the 1970 before cell phones, before gaming systems, before personal computers.

Those of us who are 30 now will be 70 year olds in 2050 and I can promise you we will be far more technical in our 70's then our current generation of 70 year olds. (Assuming we live to our 70s the way our food and environment is changing)

Tim Cook is younger then Steve Jobs, was a 30 year old during the heart of the computer revolution with personal computers and has been with Apple during its entire rebirth from 1998 to now. I can't think of a better person for the job. Hes healthy, Fit, and smart and have been a back end member for a long time of Apple. By your reasoning, Steve would have not been able to continue doing his great things at 70 either. 70 is the new 50 anyways. As people live longer and healthier the conceptions of age and ability will change too. When Tim is 70 I bet he wont look a day over 55.

Wanted to Add I think great people continue doing great things up until there last breath. I have no reason to second guess any one of the Apple team over the long term.

When any CEO is 70 if they still a CEO they may look much older than they are due to the stresses of their job.
     
besson3c  (op)
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:08 AM
 
Guys, let me simplify this entire thread for those who felt that I've written too much (which I tend to do):

How exactly, if any, should age be considered when appointing a CEO in this industry?
     
Athens
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:30 AM
 
I don't think it should be a factor at all. Health, demonstrated ability and current ability along with history and track record should be a defining factor.

PS thinking to much isn't a bad thing, even if it means taking 3 minutes to read a post instead of 40 seconds.
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:43 AM
 
I heard that Léo Apotheker is looking for a new job...
     
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:45 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Maybe he wasn't really the face, but when I think of Apple one strong image that comes to mind is the jeans and black turtleneck, and the keynote stage - the whole Steve Jobs thing.
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Oct 10, 2011, 01:58 AM
 
We have good reason to assume that Cook has been a competent replacement for SJ the CEO, but he is never going to be Jobs the chief salesman. But then again, Apple doesn't need as much salesmanship as it did when the company was reestablishing itself 5-8 years ago or earlier.

It's an interesting broader question that besson raises. We'll have to see how things develop in the next couple of years because we're just far too close to the earthquake that is SJ's immediate succession to see anything that clearly.

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Oct 10, 2011, 06:49 AM
 
The question is crazy as Steve hand picked Cook to take over Apple.

I am worried that Jonny Ives might walk now that Steve is gone. Ives is more important to Apple than many of you think.
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Oct 10, 2011, 07:03 AM
 
I expect that some of Steve's duties have been handed to Jony Ive. Particularly on the design front.
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Oct 10, 2011, 07:12 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Maybe the CEO being the face of the company is a pretty unusual thing, I don't know.
I think that's exactly it: it's a »coincidence« if you wish that Apple's CEO was also the best face of the company. If Jobs had been presiding over the board rather and Cook were CEO from the beginning, we wouldn't even talk about it who is Apple's new CEO, we'd talk about who would be Chairman of the board.

As others have said, Jobs has hand-picked Cook for the position as CEO and I think it's a good choice. He's less of a pitch man, that's for sure, but given how much of Apple's success is attributable to him, it's a good choice. If you look at later presentations (~2005/2006 onwards), you see a trend away from Stevenotes to presentations Jobs would do together with Forestall, Serlet, shaky-hands Federighi, Schiller and others. I guess that also reflects a different structure internally and that Steve's role as »ultimate decision maker« is not taken over by Cook, but by presumably a small group of people.

I think the absolute worst Apple could do is appoint someone from the outside.
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besson3c  (op)
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Oct 10, 2011, 07:18 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I think the absolute worst Apple could do is appoint someone from the outside.
Like Abe?
     
turtle777
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Oct 10, 2011, 08:49 AM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Guys, let me simplify this entire thread for those who felt that I've written too much (which I tend to do):

How exactly, if any, should age be considered when appointing a CEO in this industry?
Not at all.

Health and physical fitness are important, so is sharpness of mind, leadership skills etc.
None of those are directly correlated (or inversely correlated) to age.

-t
     
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Oct 10, 2011, 09:52 AM
 
Age and technical ability are one thing to consider when talking about a new CEO, but what about some of the things that Steve was known for? Will a new CEO buy up the flash memory market? Will they strong-arm suppliers into exclusivity deals to keep Apple products on top longer? I think over the years the companies Apple does business with weren't left with much room for negotiation and I'm afraid they might try to take advantage of what they see as a weaker CEO.

The example with the intel inside stickers is a good one. We should be less focused on who the new CEO is and more on whether the board will let them do their job and whether Apple's relationship with other companies will remain the same.

Personally, and with very little evidence, I think Cook will do well. I just hope every decision he makes doesn't turn into a what would Steve do moment.
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Oct 10, 2011, 02:43 PM
 
Originally Posted by SSharon View Post
Age and technical ability are one thing to consider when talking about a new CEO, but what about some of the things that Steve was known for? Will a new CEO buy up the flash memory market? Will they strong-arm suppliers into exclusivity deals to keep Apple products on top longer? I think over the years the companies Apple does business with weren't left with much room for negotiation and I'm afraid they might try to take advantage of what they see as a weaker CEO.
I actually think that Tim Cook was probably the one doing the strong arming with the suppliers and buying up the flash memory. I think it was Steve who was having to talk round the record labels and movie studios. Apple could probably do with someone with movie/music/TV/all of the above industry contacts for those sorts of deals.

Apple can't buy a record label as the rest would take their content away immediately, though I've often thought they should try to cut them out and simply come up with a way for artists to sell their music direct with no RIAA middleman.
More recently I wondered if it would be worth Apple buying a movie studio or distributor and showing the rest the way to sell their content but again, there could be a rebellion. Their close ties to Disney were probably the right sort of thing to have, wonder if those will remain in place.
Does anyone think Apple should buy a TV network? I can't decide but someone needs to shake up TV. It seems to me the business model is getting less and less sustainable while still floundering in its adoption/monetisation of new technology and delivery systems. If anyone can revolutionise it, its Apple.

I read a tasty rumour about adding Siri to an A5 powered AppleTV. "Put the NBA playoffs on" and "Who directed this movie?" is sooooo much better than a traditional remote. Unless you have kids. It would have to be possible to set it to ignore certain people.
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Oct 10, 2011, 02:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
I actually think that Tim Cook was probably the one doing the strong arming with the suppliers and buying up the flash memory. I think it was Steve who was having to talk round the record labels and movie studios. Apple could probably do with someone with movie/music/TV/all of the above industry contacts for those sorts of deals.
Yea, I totally forgot about the music and movie industry pressure, but you get the idea. Even if Tim was the strong arm I'm sure some of the power was because Steve was behind him.
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besson3c  (op)
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Oct 10, 2011, 03:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
Apple can't buy a record label as the rest would take their content away immediately, though I've often thought they should try to cut them out and simply come up with a way for artists to sell their music direct with no RIAA middleman.
Some artists do self-publish their music to iTunes, but what a big recording label will do is promote the snot out of the music. I can't see Apple ever being interested in getting into doing all of this, although I also don't fully understand how a music celebrity is created by the labels.

Does anyone think Apple should buy a TV network? I can't decide but someone needs to shake up TV. It seems to me the business model is getting less and less sustainable while still floundering in its adoption/monetisation of new technology and delivery systems. If anyone can revolutionise it, its Apple.

I read a tasty rumour about adding Siri to an A5 powered AppleTV. "Put the NBA playoffs on" and "Who directed this movie?" is sooooo much better than a traditional remote. Unless you have kids. It would have to be possible to set it to ignore certain people.
Very interesting... I'm assuming you are thinking of a mic in the remote with a button to listen to voice commands? It will be interesting to see how Siri deals with audio interference such as general chatter in the room.

The TV market and TV technology does seem very stale these days.
     
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Oct 10, 2011, 06:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Some artists do self-publish their music to iTunes, but what a big recording label will do is promote the snot out of the music. I can't see Apple ever being interested in getting into doing all of this, although I also don't fully understand how a music celebrity is created by the labels.
I was aware of this and I wonder what percentage split they get by doing so. I would never expect Apple to start doing promotions or running tours (Though they do run iTunes festivals so there is some room for growth there) but you always hear that tours are doing well if they break even and their value is promotional. If a big star like Lady Gaga was taking 98% of her sales revenue instead of what she gets now, couldn't she afford to do her own promos and tours? Record labels wouldn't bother unless they were making profits somewhere and the chances are that successful acts are paying for the unsuccessful ones. Why should they when they don't have to? Its probably a matter of time until a megastar decides to go it alone and strike a deal direct with iTunes.


Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
Very interesting... I'm assuming you are thinking of a mic in the remote with a button to listen to voice commands? It will be interesting to see how Siri deals with audio interference such as general chatter in the room.
I hadn't even thought about the mic but I guess you'd have to do it that way. Like Siri with an activation button so it doesn't pick up all the chatter. A one button remote, Steve's holy grail!

Originally Posted by besson3c View Post
The TV market and TV technology does seem very stale these days.
Do you think the networks would be pissed if Apple started producing their own content? Maybe they could save a show that gets cancelled by another network as a test run. See if they could push it enough to pay its way.
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Oct 11, 2011, 04:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I'd only be worried if Steve or Tim were expected to code themselves.
Given past quality of MacOS X's SyncServices code, I'd say let him have a crack at it.
     
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Oct 11, 2011, 06:21 PM
 
Originally Posted by hayesk View Post
Given past quality of MacOS X's SyncServices code, I'd say let him have a crack at it.
Or maybe they did

-t
     
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Oct 18, 2011, 02:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by Athens View Post
Cook is well groomed to continue what Steve started. Now is not the time for change. If anything in the past shows, change can lead to horrible outcomes for Apple.
The time for change is always. Change can lead to both fantastic and horrible outcomes.

Adapt or wither.
     
   
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