Tim Cook is one three people directly responsible for saving Apple, says former employee David Sobotta.
Sobotta worked at Apple for twenty years, retiring in 2004. He was the director of the company's federal sales program.
Cook's brilliance at managing logistics helped save Apple, says Sobotta. But he still has his reservations about Cook as CEO of Apple.
Yesterday Sobotta made waves in the world of Apple-watching by criticizing Cook. He told Dan Lyons at ReadWrite, Cook is a "lightweight" when it comes to technology. He also said he's not a natural leader, merely a manager.
Those comments stirred up some passion from people that follow Apple. Part of it is that Lyons has written numerous harsh stories about Apple and the bloggers that cover the company. Therefore there's an inherent distrust of Lyons. The other part is that it was unclear how much Sobotta actually worked with Cook. And, he was eight years removed from the the company. A lot changes in a decade.
Some examples of the criticism: Mathew Panzarino of The Next Web tweeted, "This is just sad." Mark Gurman at 9 To 5 Mac said, "So basically a guy who worked for Apple who probably never met Tim Cook is supposedly evidence for how Cook runs Apple. #journalism"
We reached out to Sobotta to get some clarity on his remarks. He's not a Cook hater, but he does have his opinions on Cook, just like anyone else. However, unlike most people, he did work with Cook. For the majority of his career, he reported to a VP who reported to Cook. But for a month he was reporting straight to Cook. He also had numerous executive briefings with Cook.
He even told us a story about walking to Cook's office, then walking to a briefing with Cook. Cook showed Sobotta a "back way" to the conference room that avoided walking past Steve Jobs' office. Cook said if he walked past Jobs he'd end up being "late to briefing."
So, Sobotta did work with Cook, therefore he has some idea about how Cook operated. He's also still in touch with some people at the company, so he's not totally disconnected from what's happening, he says.
He thinks Cook is "brilliant," and he credits Cook, Steve Jobs, and Fred Anderson with saving Apple. He was there when the company was at its low point, and when it was ascendant.
Jobs came up with all the brilliant products, Anderson, who was the CFO, figured out how to pay for parts before people even bought the products, and Cook reorganized the company's logistics, says Sobotta.
Despite Cook's brilliance, Sobotta is skeptical about Cook being the CEO of Apple. He doesn't think Cook is a leader. He thinks he's a manager.
We asked him to explain what he means. He said former Apple sales boss Jim Buckley was a leader. He would jump off a pier if Buckley told him to because he knew Buckley had his best interest, as well as the company's best interest, in mind. A manager will ask you to do something that doesn't makes sense, and it might not be in your best interest, says Sobotta.
He thinks Cook is a manager. And he says, "I haven't had any person tell me at Apple they feel like he's a leader."
Yet, Cook has risen through the ranks, and become Apple's CEO. He's guided the company as it's become the most valuable in the world. In the last year alone, he's overseen the release of Apple's strongest line of products ever. He must be doing something right.
When we press him on this, he dodges the question somewhat, saying, "He had Steve's trust. He is brilliant at logistics." He pivots to his criticisms of Cook, saying at Apple, you have "to herd chickens with pitchforks. There's a lot people with strong opinions who can be passive aggressive. Tim has to be a leader, he has to be a very tough guy. He's 60-70 percent of the way there."
He admits, "I haven't worked there in eight years." So it's possible he's wrong about Cook, but he says, "There are some problems, I don't see a flock of chickens."
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