'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
93 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
93 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
93 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
93 months ago
May as well be titled: "Apple Is Doomed!!!!111!!1" :p
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheRainKing Avatar
93 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
93 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)

Top Stories

april 2021 event coverage feature

Apple Event Live Coverage: New iPads, AirTags, and More Expected [Event Over]

Tuesday April 20, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
Apple's virtual "Spring Loaded" event kicks off today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, with Apple expected to debut updated iPad models and perhaps some other hardware such as AirTags or iMac models based on Apple silicon. Apple is providing a live video stream on its website, on YouTube, and in the company's TV app across its platforms. We will also be updating this article with live blog...
m1 imac colors

Apple Announces Redesigned iMac With M1 Chip and Seven Color Options

Tuesday April 20, 2021 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has announced a new, redesigned 24-inch iMac, featuring an M1 chip, a 4.5K display, and a range of color options, as well as an improved cooling system, front-facing camera, speaker system, microphones, power connector, and peripherals. The new iMac features a completely new compact design, and comes in a range of seven striking colors, including green, yellow, orange, pink, purple,...
duan rui iphone 12 13 notch

New Images Show Smaller iPhone 13 Notch Compared to iPhone 12

Saturday April 17, 2021 11:38 pm PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has shared more images that could give us our best look yet at Apple's redesigned notch for the iPhone 13. The new pictures follow similar images shared by the leaker last week, but the latest shots include a comparison with the existing iPhone 12 notch. DuanRui posted three images on Twitter that apparently originate from Weibo, although source details remain...
Top Stories 57 Feature

Top Stories: Apple Event Next Tuesday, Mini-LED iPad Pro, iPhone Rumors

Saturday April 17, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
It feels like we've been waiting forever for new Apple products, but the wait is almost over as Apple has announced a media event for next Tuesday, so make sure to tune into MacRumors for full coverage of everything Apple announces. While that was the big news this week, we also got some new details on Apple's iPhone plans for 2022 and 2023 courtesy of analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, and we also saw...
iphone 12 preorder purple

Apple Launching iPhone 12 and 12 Mini in New Purple Color on April 30

Tuesday April 20, 2021 10:08 am PDT by
Apple today announced that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini will be available in a new purple color starting April 30, with pre-orders starting this Friday. Apple is also releasing a new MagSafe Leather Case and Leather Sleeve in Deep Violet, a Silicone Case in Capri Blue, Pistachio, Cantaloupe, or Amethyst, and a Leather Wallet in Arizona, all available to order beginning today. iPhone...
f1618938547

Apple Announces AirTag Tracking Devices Starting At $29 Each

Tuesday April 20, 2021 10:10 am PDT by
Apple today announced AirTag, a Tile-like Bluetooth tracking device that's designed to be attached to items like keys and wallets for tracking purposes, letting you find them right in the Find My app. AirTags are accessories for attaching to backpacks, luggage, and other items. Any U1 device like the iPhone 12 can be used for precision finding to guide you right to the item you're looking...
iPad Pro

New 12.9-Inch iPad Pro Will Be 0.5mm Thicker to Accommodate Mini-LED Display

Monday April 19, 2021 11:30 am PDT by
The upcoming 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be thicker than the previous-generation version, likely due to the inclusion of the mini-LED display. We've heard several rumors about the change in thickness, and now leaked design images have confirmed it. A source that designs accessories for Apple devices sent MacRumors a series of photos that feature exact dimensions for the new iPad Pro models, and...
ipad pro with m1 chip

Apple Introduces Next-Generation iPad Pro With M1 Chip, Thunderbolt, 5G, XDR Display, and More

Tuesday April 20, 2021 10:40 am PDT by
Apple today announced the next-generation iPad Pro with the same M1 chip found in the latest Macs, Thunderbolt and USB4 support, 5G connectivity on cellular models with mmWave support in the United States, and more. With an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, Apple says the M1 chip in the new iPad Pro provides up to 50% faster performance and up to 40% faster graphics compared to the A12Z Bionic chip ...
iPad Pro Feature Orange

Wedbush Analysts Say 'Spring Loaded' Event Will Debut New iPads With 'Modest Price Increase,' Along With 'a Few Surprises'

Monday April 19, 2021 6:37 am PDT by
Apple is planning to launch a new entry-level iPad, iPad mini, and iPad Pro at its "Spring Loaded" event tomorrow, along with "a few surprises," according to Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analysts Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe explained that the iPad will be the main focus of Apple's "Spring Loaded" event, with new entry-level iPad, iPad mini, and ...
flat imac 3d 3 teal

Reliable Leaker Hints Redesigned Colorful iMac to Debut at 'Spring Loaded' Event

Saturday April 17, 2021 4:43 am PDT by
Reliable leaker known as l0vetodream has hinted that Apple may debut its rumored redesigned and colorful iMac at its "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20. In a tweet, the leaker posted an image of Apple's logo used for marketing the upcoming event and an image of the retro rainbow Apple logo alongside the colorful lineup of G3 iMacs. Apple leaker Jon Prosser previously reported that...