'Haunted Empire' Profiles Apple After Steve Jobs as a Company on the Decline

haunted_empire_coverFormer Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane's highly anticipated book, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, debuts tomorrow with the goal of examining Apple's transition following the death of Steve Jobs.

While the book includes some interesting tidbits such as Jobs' comments on TV at a 2010 company retreat, Haunted Empire will likely not sit well with many Apple fans given Kane's thesis that the company is entering a period of decline without Jobs' guidance. That may indeed be the case, but the impression Kane gives readers is that she reached her conclusion before even embarking on the project, proceeding to selectively choose anecdotes to support her predetermined view.

Haunted Empire has relatively little praise for Apple, offering a rather disjointed series of chapters jumping from one topic to the next in an effort to show how dysfunctional Apple has become without Jobs. The book begins with a prologue setting the stage for Apple's transition with a description of the company's celebration of Steve Jobs following his death in October 2011. The first few chapters then focus on Jobs' earlier decline in health, including inside details on his 2008 conversation with New York Times reporter Joe Nocera regarding his health issues.

As Jobs began to move to the sidelines with several medical leaves of absence, Tim Cook's star began to rise with his handling of Apple's day-to-day operations, and his so-called "Cook Doctrine" shared on an earnings conference call in January 2009 offered the first good look at the executive's philosophy. Apple was flying high at that point on strong iPhone growth, but Kane alleges that Jobs resented Apple's success under Cook's stewardship:

Jobs returned to Apple at the end of June [2009] just as had said he would. On his first day, he threw a series of tantrums, ripping people apart and tearing up marketing plans. When Jobs heard about the press's sterling evaluation of Cook's performance, he hit the roof. Cook had done an excellent job, but the leadership and skill he showed in doing so was unsettling. He was also still sore about the "Cook Doctrine." Jobs chewed him out in a meeting with other executives.

"I'm the CEO!" Jobs yelled.

In support of her argument that Apple has been on the decline for some time now, Kane proceeds to cite a series of events dating back to Jobs' final years, including the lost iPhone 4, "Antennagate", and a Daily Show segment in which Jon Stewart took Apple to task for its handling of the lost iPhone 4 situation. Even Apple's dispute with Adobe over Flash is painted as a losing situation for Apple:

[T]he victory cost Apple. The fight with Adobe enforced the perception that Apple was turning into an eight-hundred-pound gorilla. Despite Jobs's justifiable reasons to exclude Flash from the iPad, Apple came across as an oppressor. The controversy tarnished the empire's sterling brand image.

Once Jobs stepped down as CEO for good in August 2011 just six weeks before his death, Cook was better able to assert himself and Kane notes that Cook got off to a good start by promoting popular services chief Eddy Cue to a senior vice president position and instituting a matching program for employees' charitable gifts.

But Cook soon faced a number of new problems, including a lukewarm reception to the new Siri personal assistant introduced on the iPhone 4S, issues with working conditions at manufacturing partner Foxconn and other suppliers as highlighted in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of "iEconomy" articles from The New York Times, and the wide-ranging patent wars with Samsung, HTC, Nokia, and others.

Kane spends several chapters addressing the patent battles and the Samsung dispute in particular, arguing that while Apple has seen some victories in court, the effort has ultimately proven fruitless given judges' unwillingness to issue injunctions that would prevent Samsung from selling any of its most popular models of smartphones and tablets over infringement issues.

Beyond the growing patent battles, other issues continued to mount for Cook, including the Maps iOS app debacle that led to the ouster of iOS chief Scott Forstall, the e-book pricing investigation, criticism from Chinese state-run media, and tax issues.

Kane gives Cook relatively high marks for his U.S. Senate committee testimony on the tax issue, but otherwise argues that Cook has been unable to make his mark on Apple, with his low-key demeanor and a lack of significant product releases generating little excitement around the company. Even Apple's effort to bring Mac manufacturing back to the United States is played off as a minor development, with Apple's $100 million investment a "pittance compared to its $137 billion cash hoard" and the company having to partner with Flextronics on Mac Pro assembly because the project was "too insignificant for Foxconn to care."

The last several chapters bring readers close to the present time, including a critical look at Cook's May 2013 appearance at the D11: All Things Digital conference in which Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher peppered Cook with a series of hard questions about Apple's product plans, competition from Android, and the weight of the patent wars.

The performance was a disaster. Cook came across as delusional and painfully out of touch. If he was truly unfazed by the host of problems facing Apple, if he actually believed that everything was going well, then the company was really in trouble.

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2013 and the introduction of iOS 7 are also addressed, with Kane taking exception to executives' repeated efforts to dismiss much of the previous design work led by Scott Forstall.

Fathoming the motives behind the ridicule required the skills of a Kremlinologist. Why was Apple's leadership wasting its time tearing down someone they'd already shoved out into the cold? Why so much animus over fake green felt? Did they really believe that the world recoiled under the tyranny of skeuomorphism? The putdowns may have been a kind of chest thumping, intended to trumpet the alpha ascendancy of Cook and Ive, who led the overhaul of the mobile software. Maybe they wanted to underscore that they had won that Forstall had lost. Even more intriguing was the possibility that the real target might not have been Forstall, but their visionary founder. [...] Was this Apple's odd way of declaring independence from his legacy?

In an epilogue written in November, Kane leaves no doubt of her belief that Apple is on a downward slide, led by "a man laboring at an impossible task" with "no spark" and "no fire" in the way he presents his company to the world.

The truth is, Apple used to be exceptional. Not necessarily in its behavior, which was often predatory. But certainly in its ability to inspire. Those days are waning. Outside the echo chamber of Apple's headquarters, the notion of the company's exceptionalism has been shattered.

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs debuts on Tuesday, March 18 and is available from a variety of outlets including Amazon and Apple's iBooks Store.

Top Rated Comments

booyahbooyah Avatar
99 months ago
Before Touch ID came out, the idea that touch sensors could be miniaturized to fit the little home button was laughable. Apple delivered.

Where are the car integration platforms from Google and Microsoft? Apple delivered.

The first devices in history to have "ac" Wi-Fi? Apple delivered.

An incredible (and risky) concept for the new Mac Pro. The entire thing is a wind tunnel. It's pure premium art. And it's cheaper than the competition. Apple delivered.

Fantastic new re-imagining of iOS. It's not perfect (yet), but it's a bold step in the right direction. Apple delivered.

Ditto for OS X. Apple delivered.

Bold new pricing strategy for iWork and OS X. Apple delivered.

All of this happened under Cook.

------------------------------------------

The e-books pricing case wasn't Cook's fault.

When they made fun of green felt, it was Apple making fun of itself, not necessarily of Scott Forstall. It was only Craig Fed. doing it. Maybe it wasn't a pre-planned group pile-on. Maybe it was just Craig being Craig.

------------------------------------------

The following are fair criticisms of Cook:

Siri and Maps haven't been completely fixed yet.

Scott Forstall shouldn't have been fired. Instead, they should have given him an independent project where he didn't have to run into Ive and others he didn't get along with.

Josh Browett. The ex-retail chief. That was completely on Cook.


Overall, I give Cook a B+. After 2014, he'll have earned his A+.
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ljohnson72 Avatar
99 months ago
Apple is fine and is going to continue to be fine. Obviously, Steve Jobs was great; however, he was not the only one behind the curtain.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ploki Avatar
99 months ago
Since Jobs died Apple has lost it's spark. I use to get so excited when they released a new product, but these days the feelings aren't there. Apple just feels like another company now.
you might suffer a little "cult of personality".

Actually Retina MBP happened since jobs died, and imo is the best laptop apple has ever made. And I'm still just as excited when apples released a new product.

Perhaps you should learn how you have to push the shift button and then typing bunch of exclamation marks first.
(im not ethanlee)
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=!!!!111

Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ethanlee Avatar
99 months ago
May as well be titled: "Apple Is Doomed!!!!111!!1" :p
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheRainKing Avatar
99 months ago
Since Jobs died Apple has lost it's spark. I use to get so excited when they released a new product, but these days the feelings aren't there. Apple just feels like another company now.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
goobot Avatar
99 months ago
I agree and disagree with lots of things, the main ones being that i agree with the whole iOS 7 thing, you need a little more than words to have a decent user interface, i can understand not wanting to go over board and have green felt everywhere but you went overboard in the opposite direction. As for the whole no new product thing its been 2 years, they have released nice updates but to expect a whole new product is a joke.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
Apple Films Tom Hanks Finch First Look

Apple Original Film 'Finch' Starring Tom Hanks to Premiere November 5

Thursday August 12, 2021 8:52 am PDT by
Apple today announced that the original film "Finch," starring Tom Hanks in its titular role, will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5 and shared a first-look image from the film. The first look at "Finch," shared by Apple. The film, which is anticipated to be an awards season contender, revolves around a man, a robot (played by "Get Out" actor Caleb Landry Jones), and a dog that form ...
whatsintheboxiphonexs

Apple's iPhone XS, XS Max and XR Won't Ship With Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter

Wednesday September 12, 2018 12:58 pm PDT by
Since the headphone jack was removed from the iPhone with the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple has bundled iPhones with a Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for customers who continue to have 3.5mm headphones. With the launch of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, Apple is discontinuing this practice and will not include the Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter. On the...
macbook air m1 first benchmark

Apple Silicon M1 Chip in MacBook Air Outperforms High-End 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Wednesday November 11, 2020 4:43 pm PST by
Apple introduced the first MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini with M1 Apple Silicon chips yesterday, and as of today, the first benchmark of the new chip appears to be showing up on the Geekbench site. The M1 chip, which belongs to a MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, features a single-core score of 1687 and a multi-core score of 7433. According to the benchmark, the M1 has a 3.2GHz base...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....