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Apple CEO Tim Cook faces big challenges on his second anniversary

August 24, 2013|By Chris O'Brien
  • As CEO Tim Cooks marks his second anniversary running Apple, challenges loom.
As CEO Tim Cooks marks his second anniversary running Apple, challenges… (Andrew Gombert / EPA )

Happy anniversary, Tim Cook!

Today marks two years since you were appointed chief executive of Apple. Such a loaded moment, ascending to the helm of such an iconic company but knowing that the man you were replacing was probably close to death. You handled it with grace and dignity. 

You managed the transition so well. The one-year anniversary stories last year were pretty glowing. Stock price soaring. Labor troubles being addressed. Opening up the company a tad bit more. Launching lots of new products. Good times.

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This year? Well, not quite so rosy. Pretty good, on the whole. But the aura of invincibility is gone for sure.

It probably wasn't so much fun watching the stock price almost cut in half. Or being grilled in Congress about Apple's tax-saving strategies. Or that ugly legal fight with a shareholder earlier this year. Or losing the e-book antitrust case to the U.S. Justice Department. Or deciding to restructure your stock awards to mollify restless shareholders.

Speaking of restless shareholders, you have that dinner with Carl Icahn to look forward to next month. That should be fun. 

It should be noted, however, that despite the gyrations, Apple's stock is up since you took charge.

AAPL Chart

AAPL data by YCharts

And on the bright side, this fall should be action packed. New iPhones. New iPads. New iOS 7. iTunes Radio. The Apple faithful should be totally stoked. 

Still, there are a few challenges ahead:

iPads: The number sold was down in the most recent quarter from the previous quarter. Not catastrophic. But still, it has made some folks nervous. A new iPad and iPad Mini are rumored to be coming this fall. Many analysts are assuming that sales slumped a bit simply because the new versions came a bit later than usual. If so, great. Things should be back on track with the new units. If not, if tablet sales growth has really plateaued, then expect a minor freak-out.

Apple stores: What's going on here? You fired the head of Apple retail last October and still haven't replaced him. That seems ... odd. What's the holdup? The average number of customers going to Apple stores each week has slipped. And so have the sales per square foot. Seems like an area desperately in need of leadership. 

Emerging markets: Yep, you've heard this before. But still, while Apple's iPhone is doing swell in the U.S. of A., it's having trouble abroad, losing share to Samsung's Android phones. The new iPhone 5C is reportedly going to be the lower-cost phone everyone has been panting about forever. And hopefully that will help get a bit more traction in places like India, China and Brazil. 

Online services: Apple still seems to be not quite able to nail Internet services in the same way it gets hardware. Apple maps caused quite a stir last year, and not in a good way. And lately you've been buying up map start-ups to help catch up to Google. But things like iCloud haven't exactly set the world on fire. With a new version of iCloud and iWork coming, iTunes Radio on the way and maps improving, can Apple finally deliver a superior online experience?

TV: Apple TV, the $99 little box, continues to be a sleeper hit. But Apple fans being Apple fans, they want more. You've slowly been adding services to that little black box the last year. But the expectation is that Apple is going to deliver a TV that will blow our minds. Because that's what we expect Apple to do. Is that really possible, given that content makers and cable companies have little incentive to cooperate? Deliver such a TV, and it will go a long way toward pleasing Wall Street, which wants a new source of revenue, and fans, who are eager to see that Apple has still got what it takes to innovate. 

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