Apple today unveiled updates to OS X Lion for the Mac in an unusual way, but it’s not the only thing the company has done differently since Tim Cook took over as CEO.
The CEO has gradually opened up Apple as a company, showing an responsiveness that extends to everything from how it responds to criticism to how it conducts its PR campaigns.
For example, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company allowed several news outlets an advanced look at Mac OS X Mountain Lion, before lifting its media embargo at 8:30 a.m. The update has several new features that make OS X more like iOS, but more surprising than the new features was the way the company unveiled them.
In the past, Apple has chosen to announce all updates to software and products at media events, planned weeks in advance and sending invitations to all media a few days before hand. The tech giant is traditionally a secretive company that keeps its plans under tight lock and key, often whipping the media into a frenzy and causing the blogosphere to erupt at the slightest rumor.
Apple’s particular style was often attributed to co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, as he felt it best to keep all the company’s plans secret to avoid competition from stealing its ideas. Jobs was often abrasive to the media and competitors, and although nearly all publications and colleagues recognized him as the primary reason for Apple’s success, it often tinted the company’s reputation as cold and business-oriented.
Contrast this with Cook, who demonstrates a far more relaxed accessibility to both investors and critics. He opened Apple’s doors to the media days in advance to preview Mountain Lion, even granting an interview to The Wall Street Journal about the company’s direction.
He has faced tough questions about working conditions in his company’s factories, addressing mounting criticism in an open, direct manner.
In a further mark of his transparency, Cook appeared at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference earlier this week, reiterating the company’s steady focus on product innovation and promising a plan to discuss the problems Apple and the media have uncovered in its factories.
Jobs was a product-focused CEO who avoided the media, but often received a pass because his efforts achieved such stunning results. With Cook, Apple has a new leader, one who emphasizes media accessibility and has shown willingness to make changes and explore new initiatives at Apple.
For example, Cook has publicly explored Apple possibly offering dividends to stock holders, launched formal charitable endeavors at the company and put a new employee discount plan in place, set to begin later this year.
Over the past decade, Apple has been on the most successful companies in the world, but has been at the center of a fair amount of controversy along the way. Even now, the company is facing scrutiny from Congress about the way it stores users’ data, is in the midst of several patent suits with Samsung and faces persistent questions about working conditions overseas.
Cook’s — and Apple’s — growing openness, however, could serve the company well to help weather the currents, especially as mobile advances and devices endure growing scrutiny not just in the market, but in law and policy. The CEO’s style recognizes the impact that Apple has as a company and cultural force, and his actions so far acknowledge the powerful influence Apple can play in the market, and at the world at large.
If Cook can quell the issues surrounding Apple with a direct and open approach while overseeing success similar to his predecessor, he may be able to change the world’s perception of his company while building his own legacy in the process.