Has Apple gone soft? Tim Cook, say it ain't so

Bloomberg Businessweek suggests that with recent corporate expressions such as moving some Mac production to the U.S., Apple is showing its "softer side." Oh, really?

Soft? Hardly. Sarah Tew/CNET

Hard is good, soft is bad.

This is surely the mantra that so many CEOs and politicians chant to an effigy of themselves last thing at night.

We hear the phrase "hard-nosed businessman" as a term of admiration. Just as we hear "gone soft" as a phrase meaning anything from rotting food to weak judgment to mental illness.

So when I read a Bloomberg Businessweek headline that whispered "Apple's softer side emerges under CEO Cook," I squeezed my eyes tighter in anticipation of a paean to wussiness.

What do we see of Apple's softer side?

Well, there's the fact that Apple is moving a little Mac production to the U.S. How reekingly touch-feely.

Then there's the terribly wussy notion that Apple is to give its employees two weeks of paid vacation to work on their own pet projects -- like getting sleep, perhaps.

The company has even started to make charitable donations.

Seriously, what's next? Supporting gay marriage?

Oh, wait. Apple already did that in 2008 . Yes, when it was run by allegedly hard-hearted, monomaniacal, blisteringly untouchy (save in the face of criticism) Steve Jobs.

It's odd how some would term moves that make perfect business sense "soft."

Tim Cook's decision to move some production to the U.S. is, at the very least, astute politics. If you don't think companies as influential as Apple operate in the political dimension, then you're clearly melting.

Moreover, a brand such as Apple -- one that knows its perception is a large part of its success -- understands that customers around the world are a touch more sensitive to corporate responsibility than they use to be.

Perhaps it's all these socially networking, global-warming-wary, peacenik Generation Why-ers who are lobbing earnestness at everything they see. (Yes, even cars represent something of a touch of evil these days.)

But these people have suddenly started to do daft things like vote.

Showing a little understanding of the way the world is flowing isn't "going soft." It's merely good business.

Bloomberg Businessweek quotes Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi as saying: "Cook is a gentler being in terms of how he projects himself."

I wonder whether, when he projected himself at Scott Forstall and John Browett and ejected them from Cupertino, he was being a gentler being.

Oh, but perhaps we'll see him offering an arm around the shoulder of Samsung's CEO, as they go for a hike to discuss fossil fuels and their impact on rural areas.

Or perhaps we'll simply see a CEO taking decisions that, at their heart, are intended to do just one thing: further the interests of Apple's business.

Tim Cook might get decisions right or he might get them wrong.

I have an odd feeling, though, that softness won't factor too much into their making.

 

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