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Talking about Apple

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Did Steve Jobs have founders disease? Steve got sick and died from natural causes. When did Apple get sick?

Apple got sick when the entire enterprise depended largely on the genius of the founder who failed to multiply the genius around him. It failed when he did not delegate and build an executive and invention staff as powerful or more than himself.

Way back when Steve made the decision to distribute his computers through school audiovisual equipment distributors, and when I was publishing computer trade journal, I wondered aloud what the heck is he doing? I understood the strategy to grab the education market and to equip schools and children with Apple computers, but it was apparent that for him to compete with Microsoft and IBM the company could not live on that narrow channel. It needed much more innovation in developing a robust channel strategy. Being slow at doing that nearly cost the company its existence.

Yet, with brute force invention, Steve Jobs hung on and charted a new course. If the company had not gone public, the founder may have pulled off a niche market servicing graphic arts professionals. It would have been small and manageable.

Yet, Steve took Apple public and the market opened up in scope and scale that demanded that he and Apple keep up. The fought hard and invented their way forward by establishing a large and loyal following of Apple users.

Now, today, Tim Cook runs Apple. He is a financial executive and not an inventor genius. His deficiencies could be overcome if he had the genius to recruit more than one inventive genius. He could embark on new frontiers, including energy, power storage and distribution technology, for instance. Some have suggested that Apple acquire Tesla and go into the electric auto industry.

Automotive is a distraction from the core need for renewable energy. Automobiles are an application where renewable energy is the essential need of highest national priority.

So, business people are already talking about Tim Cook and the demise of Apple. It is never too late to make bold moves of the type suggested. However, the board probably smells blood and so do shareholders.

"Tim Cook takes a pay cut for Appleā€™s performance. Finally.

January 2 at 3:46 pm

On Sunday, Apple filed a preliminary proxy statement revealing some bad news for chief executive Tim Cook: He made $4 million less in 2013 than he might have, had Apple's stock not taken a nosedive. Which isn't to say he didn't do perfectly well; his overall compensation actually increased from $4.18 million in 2012 to $4.25 million in 2013. Considering, though, that he could have doubled his take-home pay had Apple just kept pace with the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, that's quite a pay cut.

But here's the remarkable thing about the disclosure: The reduction was, to a certain extent, voluntary. According to the board of directors, Cook had asked for a modification to the huge stock award plan he got when he took the CEO job in 2011. Originally, he was going to get an amount of stock that at the time was worth $376 million, one half of it in 2016 and the rest in 2021. Earlier this year, Cook asked to instead get the money spread out over the decade, and to have half of it tied to the company's stock performance as a stick for bad management. He wouldn't get more if Apple outperformed the market, but he'd lose it all if Apple did really badly.

"Because Mr. Cook faces only downside risk from the modification, the Compensation Committee believed that less than 50% of the annual tranches should be placed at risk," the statement reads. "Mr. Cook, however, expressed a strong desire to set a leadership example in the area of CEO compensation and governance and requested a larger at-risk percentage."



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