Since Tim Cook took the reins in Cupertino, almost four years ago, a gradual but inexorable change has taken place. And, speaking as a longtime follower of the company, there was to me no greater indication of that than this past week's kerfuffle over artist royalty payments, and the eventual policy reversal from the company. Let us count the ways in which this whole to-do reflects the changing face of the company.
First of all: Policy reversals are nothing new to Apple, even under Jobs. The company dropped the price of the original iPhone, for example, and launched a video iPod after Jobs derided the idea of watching video on one. But in so many of those scenarios, those moves were conveyed less as reversal and more as "we meant to do this all along" or "I only said nobody would do that because nobody has done it right." In this case, it was framed as a direct reaction to a complaint--Taylor Swift's open letter--and carried at least a sentiment of the mea culpa, if not an out-and-out apology.
Secondly, this policy change was announced via Twitter. Apple's been slow to embrace social networking. Though many of the company's individual arms have a presence on the network--iTunes, the App Store, even the nascent Apple Music--there's still no official Apple account. (Both @apple and @appleinc exist, but are essentially empty.) The same seems to go for Facebook, where there's only an unofficial Apple page.
Traditionally, a move like this would have been announced via a comment from a PR rep to a news outlet--or perhaps, if it were truly a major incident, via a press release on Apple's PR page. (Or, in the occasional truly bizarre incident, holding a press conference and inviting a handful of press to tour the company's antenna testing facilities.)
Thirdly, that it came directly from senior vice president of Internet and Software Services Eddy Cue himself is significant. During Steve Jobs's tenure, the vast majority of communication from Apple came either from the mouth of the CEO himself, or from Apple's public relations team. Cook's Apple, on the other hand, has put the rest of the executive team into far more visible positions, whether it be chief design officer Jony Ive's veritable cornucopia of press profiles, senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi's marathon presentation appearances, or senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller's recent appearance on Daring Fireball proprietor John Gruber's podcast.
Cook's specialty is the running of the business, and at that he excels. But he also knows when to let his team do its job, and doesn't try to replicate the way Jobs ran the company. As I wrote four years ago upon his ascension to the top position:
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