Apple is boring now, ex-engineer says

by Todd Haselton | January 18, 2017

tim cook fair use flickr

I recently argued that Apple is lost, but is Apple also boring? That’s what former engineer Bob Burrough said on Twitter this week. “The very first thing Tim did as CEO was convert Apple from a dynamic change-maker into a boring operations company,” Burrough noted. That kind of Tweet obviously scared up a lot of responses.

Horace Dediu, who has followed Apple as an analyst long before the Tim Cook era, wrote a quick “nope” in response to Burrough’s tweet. Burrough offered up some reasoning, however.

“Tim Cook fired Scott Forstall and aligned the executive staff so as to have peace. …which is to say there is no conflict,” he said, arguing that Apple should have some level of conflict among execs, especially if it wants them to drive to compete the best products possible. “Executives aren’t competing with each other any more. And, Tim’s message was loud and clear: ‘Don’t bring me conflict.'”

Coincidentally, Tony Faddell, the father of the iPod, tweeted back on January 11 that there wasn’t much conflict at Apple before Tim Cook. “Wrong!!! There was never a competition. We, together, were searching for the best solution. Steve asked us to test all the possibilities.”

Speaking with CNBC in response to his tweets, Burrough explained a bit more what he meant about the changes underway at Apple under Tim Cook. “I was hired under a particular manager, but for the first two years worked on projects that had virtually nothing to do with that manager’s core responsibility,” Burrough told CNBC. “That’s because the organization wasn’t the priority, the projects were the priority. It was the exact opposite of ‘not my job.’ It was ‘I’m here to solve whatever problems I can, irrespective of my role, my title, or to whom I report.’ It was wild. But it was also very rewarding, because everything you did had maximal impact on the product.”

Playing it safe

I don’t think Apple is necessarily boring — products like the Apple Watch, AirPods and new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar are all exciting in their own right. On the other hand, Apple isn’t really introducing products in very exciting categories, like AR or VR, though it has already confirmed its bullish on AR.

Perhaps Tim Cook is just playing it safe by investors. That’ll keep them happy, but it isn’t always as exciting as one might hope.

CNBC Bob Burrough

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Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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