Review: “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul”, by Tripp Mickle


Mickle constructs a dense, granular mosaic of the company’s trials and triumphs, showing us how Apple, building on Ive’s successes in the 2000s, became Cook’s company in the 2010s. Ive, long knighted, becomes increasingly enthralled with opportunities outside of Apple — a museum exhibit, a charity auction, an immersive Christmas tree installation — and goes part-time in 2015. Realizing it is worse than having Ive either entirely present or absent, Cook persuades him to return, but his heart is clearly not in it. Finally, in 2019, I’m leaving for good.

In the epilogue, Mickle drops his reporter’s pony to apportion blame for the company’s failure to launch yet another transformative product. Cook is accused of being distant and unknowable, a bad partner for Ive, “an artist who wanted to bring empathy to every product”. Ive is also delighted to have taken on “responsibility for software design and management burdens which he quickly shied away from”. In the end, the feeling that the two missed a chance to create a worthy iPhone successor is palpable.

It’s also hooey, and the best proof of that is the previous 400 pages. It is true that after the death of Jobs, Apple did not produce another device as important as the iPhone, but Apple did not produce another device so important before neither is he dead. It’s also true that Cook didn’t take on the role of CEO like Jobs had, but no one ever thought he could, including Jobs, who on his deathbed advised Cook to never ask what Steve would do: “Just do what’s right.”

Ive and Cook wanted another iPhone, but, as Mickle’s comprehensive report makes clear, there was no other such device to be made. Self-driving cars were too harsh, health devices over-regulated, TV protected the way music hadn’t been, and even headphones and the watch, the devices they actually shipped, were peripheral, technically and conceptually. , to Apple’s best product.


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