Friday 30 September 2016

Newsmaker: Tim Cook, Apple CEO

Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc. Photo: David Paul/Bloomberg
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc. Photo: David Paul/Bloomberg

When Apple chief executive Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs four years ago, he probably had in his head a bunch of priorities for his time heading the company.

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We can hazard a guess at what those priorities might have been: come up with a new product to help him escape the legacy of Mr Jobs, get a much stronger foothold in China, and make Apple's platform more secure in the face of snooping by the US government and other organisations.

In all three cases, mission accomplished.

Apart from keeping an eye on the operation in Cork, our Emerald Isle was probably not on his list of "big things".

That has changed drastically, however. With the EU investigating Apple's tax arrangements, there is now the very real possibility that the tech behemoth will have to pay out €17bn in back taxes to an Irish government that really, really, does not want them. It may seem bizarre, and it is, but as the EU's investigation of Apple's tax arrangements here draws closer to a conclusion, it is becoming a very real possibility.

Last Thursday, Mr Cook flew into Brussels to meet the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, apparently to discuss the investigation. Details of the meeting were not disclosed, but we may get an update from Mr Cook when his company unveils its results for its first quarter on Tuesday.

Strange as it may seem, there seems to be an air of gloom around Apple at present. For all the hype, the Apple Watch has yet to take off while there is a sense among analysts that the iPhone 6S is struggling compared to previous versions of the device.

A note last week from UBS discussed the problem Apple faces. In essence, the bank believes the 6S has not differentiated itself enough from its predecessor. As a result, more buyers are choosing the 6, which is now a lot cheaper but delivers close to the same performance of the 6S.

Another issue is the MacBook, which was launched earlier this year. The 12-inch notebook is revolutionary in some ways but is almost ahead of its time. With only a single USB-C port, it is akin to the concept cars displayed at motor shows. Beautiful to look at but not realistic for the ordinary person on the street.

Apple remains a giant of a company, but Mr Cook will be under pressure to deliver some unexpected good news on Tuesday.

Tim Cook

Irish Independent

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