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It’s Not What He Says But the Way He Says It

May 29th, 2013 - 10:01 am

CNN has the bullet-point version of Walt Mossberg’s and Kara Swisher’s D11 interview with Tim Cook. It’s handy if you’re having a day like mine and can’t find the time to watch all 81-minutes of it. I was hoping this last bit would be more than corporate boilerplate, but here’s all we got out of Cook on how he differs from Steve Jobs:

In a ton of different ways. But in the most important ways, we’re the same. Keeping the culture of Apple. That’s the most important.

That’s the kind of thing Apple execs say, because the corporate image is so polished and so controlled. Those aren’t bad things, but they’re not necessarily very revealing, either. Jobs & Cook are both fascinating men and amazing CEOs, so pulling back the curtain there, even just a little, would have been a real pleasure.

But I can tell you one way they’re both very alike, and (I suspect) much like a third person from way back in Jobs’s youth.

Cook sounds almost exactly like Jobs. Not his voice — Cook’s is gentler and much more Suthun. But listen to his cadences, especially when he’s on stage and giving a product demonstration. His speech patterns match Steve’s almost perfectly. There’s a rhythm, a method of emphasis they both share. If you don’t believe me, wait until Cook gives his WWDC keynote on June 10, then pull up any one of Jobs’s famous keynotes on YouTube. It’s uncanny.

Now what follows is pure speculation.

In his late teens, Jobs fell in with Robert Friedland, a charismatic LSD free-love guru-type figure. Friedland was a big influence on young Jobs, according to Walter Isaacson’s bio, and has been credited with helping him create his Reality Distortion Field.

I’ve never been able to find any video of Friedland giving any sort of product demo. But I’d wager the rent money that Friedland used those same cadences, those same rhythms, that Jobs used on stage. And that Tim Cook, probably with a big assist from Jobs, very purposely learned to use them, too.

Again, this is speculation. But I’ve been watching Apple for 30 years (really???) and Jobs for just as long. So call it informed speculation.

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All Comments   (3)
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Tim Cook talks like Shug Jordan.

Really: he does.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"And that Tim Cook, probably with a big assist from Jobs, very purposely learned to use them, too."

I think that's absolutely true. I've seen both speak, and Cook apes (in the proper use of the term) Jobs very thoroughly.

The big problem I have with Cook's style is that it's very clearly not his own. Jobs pulled it off because he owned it very early on, and it became an extension of his natural charisma, vision, and drive. Cook, unfortunately, does not possess that level of charisma. So when he goes through the routine, it comes across as smarmy and fake. Unfortunately.

Take a look, for example, at both of them when they "thank everyone at Apple for all of their dedication and hard work." When Jobs did it, it was clean and heart-felt. When Cook does it, it comes across as "this is what Jobs said, so I need to, too." To me, it strikes all of my inauthentic buttons. Which may be hyper-sensitive, to be sure.

Cook needs to find his own style. Jobs was a super salesman and visionary. Cook's a master of detail and management. That's hard to be in front of 5000 people, but he needs to own it, instead of trying to be what he's not.

I'll be at WWDC, hopefully with a seat in the main auditorium. Not if I have to get up at 2am, though! I'll let you know what I think. Maybe I'm wrong, and I'll be pleasantly surprised. That'd be cool.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't find Cook off-putting at all. But then I enjoy Southern accents, so that might just be my own bias.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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