By Oliver Ward
Apple´s announcement this week for a 1,300 acre solar farm strengthened Apple´s commitment to becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy company. Not only will it provide the power for Apples new campus and shelter them from the ever increasing costs of brown energy, but it represents the astute and progressive success Tim Cook has earned as the CEO of the worlds best known phone and tablet manufacturer.
On this day in 1779 another world famous Cook died. James Cook, responsible for the first contact with what we now know as Australia and Hawaii. A cartographer, captain of the Royal Navy, and expert navigator into tides unknown.
Tim Cook has more in common with his eighteenth century counterpart than he may know. Like James Cook, the Apple CEO has moved the company “further than any man has gone before him” (James Cook´s response to accurately mapping the coast of Newfoundland). Tim Cook has massively expanded Apple´s reach in Asia. Jobs famously never visited China despite using Chinese factories for the manufacturing process, and hoping to break into the Chinese markets. Cook has made several visits to the country, met with high ranking officials, inspected Apple´s factories and, perhaps most importantly, has made a deal with China Mobile (the worlds largest wireless carrier). As a result China is now Apple´s fastest growing market and represents a Tim Cook´s proactive handling of the companies navigation.
He confronts issues which needs addressing and appears to be in full control of Apple´s course in these new uncharted waters. For example when the New York Times ran a story criticising the working conditions of Foxcomm´s factories in China, Cook personally went to investigate the factories in question- unlike Jobs who attempted to distance himself from the Taiwanese manufacturers and remarked that suicide levels in the workforce were actually less than in the United States at the time. This has led Goldman Sachs to estimate Apple´s share price to be up by 120 per cent under Cook, and annual revenue to be up 56 per cent yet Cook is adament they´re “not focussed on the numbers. We´re focussed on the things that produce the numbers”.
It is also in this department that Cook has brought Apple into stranger tides. While Jobs had the creative flair and an ingenious mind for development, Cook has begun to move away from the core Apple products. He introduced cheaper, more affordable versions of the iPad and iPhone and was still able to turn a hefty profit despite rising production costs (the iPad mini was the second highest selling Apple product last year).
While the solar farm announcement on Monday was undoubtedly groundbreaking as it is the largest ever commercial purchase of solar power and puts Apple hundreds of nautical miles ahead of its competitor Microsoft, it slightly overshadows Cook´s other recent success story, the collaboration with IBM.
No image sums up the impact Cook has had on the company more than this. In 1983 Jobs was pictured sticking his middle finger up at IBM outside their New York headquarters, now his successor has begun releasing the first of over a hundred industry specific apps in collaboration with the technology and industry giants. Both look to reap serious benefits in the deal, for IBM it represents the chance to enter the mobile market which they have so far been unable to break, and for Apple it allows the opportunity to capitalise on IBM´s industry specific technology, while implementing their own accessible userface.
For the original, Mr. James Cook, his bravery and hands on approach got him slain when he attempted to kidnap the king himself at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii, however it is here that i predict the similarities end. Tim Cook´s pragmatic hands on approach seems to be working, as Apple are sailing ahead of their competitors, and it seems it could be more plain sailing and favourable winds this year as the world waits with anticipation for the iWatch.