Now that Apple has fallen 30% from its peak and shows no sign of breaking out and making another run, the most popular past time of people on the web is to offer their theory about what’s wrong.You can see our latest take on it right here. That take is based on fundamental analysis of the company’s earnings potential.
For another take, here’s Bob Lefsetz, the influential music industry veteran. He has a post that attacks Tim Cook as a “charisma-challenged” CEO whose silence as Apple crashes is causing big problems for Apple.
He thinks that Cook, or someone at Apple, should be publicly or privately, trying to shift the narrative on Apple.
Lefsetz says, “If you read the press today, you believe the iPhone is in a death spiral, that Samsung is king and Apple is going downhill.” And Apple’s response to these stories is absolute silence. You can’t respond to every little story, but, “when it’s raw misinformation, and the public is acting on it, you’ve got to put in your two cents, you’ve got to spin the story.”
The problem for Apple is that it doesn’t have Steve Jobs, who was a master at massaging the media and expressing himself in a convincing way.
Here’s where Lefsetz unloads on Apple:
Tim Cook is charisma-challenged. He starts to speak and credibility goes out the window. Phil Schiller has more gravitas, and Jonny Ive eclipses even him, but who’s really driving this car? Everybody knows Cook is an efficiency expert. Who’s the heart and soul of the enterprise, and where is it going?
The vacuum is such that way down the food chain, where the rubber meets the road, where people buy stuff, Apple is losing steam. It’s gone from trustworthy monolith to dying empire, all based on spin. People in the press and online saying Apple is toast with few facts to back it up.
…You’ve got to manage your image. You cannot let the hoi polloi run ragged with your story. You’ve got to control it. I’m not saying you should lie, but at least give some real guidance. Otherwise you’re like Apple, with a tanking stock and everybody piling on.
We believe there is some truth in what Lefsetz is saying. But at the same time, Apple’s hands are somewhat tied.
On the charge that Tim Cook is not as charismatic as Steve Jobs, he is right. But Steve Jobs was the most charismatic, most compelling person in technology ever. He was most interesting, articulate speaker in all of business. Every single time he did an interview he said something interesting that you never heard or thought of before. He was a genius on a level that no one will match.
So, yes, Cook is guilty as charged of not being Jobs. He never will be. But, that doesn’t mean he should let him off the hook. He has problems. We’ve pointed that he tends to repeat himself over and over. Cook promised to “double down on secrecy.” The idea was to keep Apple’s forthcoming products quiet. That hasn’t worked. Product news still leaks. Instead, it seems like there is just more radio silence overall from Apple, even when it would be wise to influence stories.
And that’s where Cook’s hands are tied. Apple reports earnings in a week. He could be in trouble if he panicked and came out early with earnings or hints about earnings. That would also make him the target for criticism. People would say he’s being a reactionary.
The depressing truth about Apple for people that want to know right now is that we’re going to have a year to figure out the truth about Apple’s future. The really big questions about Apple won’t be answered during next week’s earnings. We need to see if Apple rolls out new products. We need to see if the iPhone market is really saturated.
But, Lefsetz is right about Apple losing control of the message. For the longest time, the story on Apple was that it was the best company in the world that makes products that are miles ahead of the competition. This story is gradually coming undone.
And when Cook just robotically repeats, “we make the best products in the world,” it starts to ring hollow. There’s a phrase in journalism, “show, don’t tell.” Jobs was great at showing everyone why Apple was better than the competition. Cook, unfortunately for Apple shareholders, is better at telling everyone why Apple is great.
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