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article imageOp-Ed: If Apple Watch fails, iPhone 6 will save Tim Cook's butt

By Rocco Pendola     Sep 12, 2014 in Technology
Right or wrong, fair or not, Tim Cook hasn't been able to escape Steve Jobs's shadow. If the Apple Watch flops, the media and investors will ridicule him, but his company will keep on ticking same as it ever was.
There's this sense that starts on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and throughout the financial media before permeating pop culture that Apple CEO Tim Cook will always ride the coattails of the late Steve Jobs. That Cook must come up with something Apple didn't initially produce on Jobs's watch (I intend no pun) to warrant the final fist pump and chest bump as the company's practical and, more importantly, spiritual leader.
In other words, if iPhone 6 does well, that's still on Jobs, not Cook. Some critics might go so far as to say, even if some new product -- such as the forthcoming Apple Watch -- does remarkably well, it existed in Jobs's, not Cook's pipeline therefore it's a Jobsian success Cook merely presides over. As if anybody could organize and execute a major product release gawked at and dissected by what feels like the world's entire population (at least those of us in the comfortable, self-entitled societies that consume ourselves with or aspire to obtain the next fancy tech gadget).
This puts Cook in an interesting spot, assuming he wants to remain Apple CEO for the long haul.
If the Apple Watch and iPhone 6 "fail," talk probably surfaces of removing Cook. This, however, is an unlikely scenario. iPhone 6, thanks in part to a flood of current iPhone customers upgrading to the new device, will be a smash hit. Mark my words. In fact, in one of the next two quarters, if not both, expect Apple to crush its own record of 51 million smartphone units sold in the first quarter of 2014. This gives Cook the breath of life he requires to not only keep his gig, but continue to win over skeptical and cynical converts.
A considerable number of people -- myself included -- don't think the Apple Watch will be a success, at least not by Apple standards. Meaning no matter how you make the comparison, the watch simply won't come close to the quantitative or qualitative impact of Apple's previous game changers -- iPod, iPhone and iPad. The Apple Watch will not sell near as many units nor will it reinvent the wristwatch, fitness or the healthcare industry the way iPod reinvented the Walkman, iPhone crushed the BlackBerry and iPad put the hurt on PC laptops. Cook will take the brunt of the criticism for what I prefer to define as anticipated disappointment rather than abject failure.
The cats taking the hardline on Cook miss the larger point of what makes Apple great. From a hardware standpoint, the Apple Watch works just fine alongside Apple TV or the Macbook with respect to volume. It'll likely produce a killer profit margin. That extends the Apple way on hardware and that's all that matters. And, when you consider software, it's not like Apple has never had a misstep. Remember Ping -- the platform that was supposed to make uninspiring iTunes social?
At Apple, like any place else, precedent for failure (or routine disappointment) exists.
The genius of Cook is that he respects Jobs's legacy. But, more importantly, he not only carries on but embodies the key characteristics that make Apple great. The ones the critics fail to see. Even critics who laud Jobs while chiding Cook.
iPhone 6 wins not simply because it will sell big numbers, but because, in typical Apple brilliance, it has evolved incrementally. There has never been a need for Apple to seek revolution on each iPhone iteration. In fact, too much drastic change probably would have scared loyal customers away. You love the way your iPhone works so why do you want a profoundly different experience every time you pick up a new one?
When Apple makes notable change, it comes after a lengthy period of making sure they'll get it right. And it's clear that's how iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus came together. If Apple was looking to secure easy market share it would have produced a phone with a larger screen a long time ago. It's only coming now because Apple doesn't operate on its competitors' timelines, it functions on its own.
By a similar token, Apple could have made a move on mobile payments a long time ago, but it waited. It waited so that it would be in prime position to take ownership of an industry ripe for disruption. In some respects, Starbucks did the dirty work for Apple. Starbucks has made paying with your smartphone a daily habit for millions of people around the world. Apple extending the scope of this just feels right. One iconic brand building on the work of another iconic brand. This spells trouble for PayPal and other companies in the space, but it probably would not have had Apple rushed in a couple to a few years too soon.
All of that said, my headline is spot on. The media and other peanut gallery pundits will lament Apple Watch as a failure (assuming it "fails"). They'll argue Cook hangs onto his gig thanks to the Steve Jobs-inspired iPhone 6. But they'll fail to acknowledge what people who really understand Apple know -- Cook would have erred had he moved hastily to make Apple his own. Instead, he sees the big picture. He realizes that for every few increments he implements at Apple on a device such as iPhone, he's laying the groundwork for even more disruptive revolution that he, not Steve Jobs, can quietly and humbly stake claim to.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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