Since taking over for Steve Jobs as Apple CEO last year, Tim Cook has guided the company through unprecedented triumphs.
From the iPhone 4S to the new iPad as well as everything in between (revolutionizing the textbook industry, as just one example), Apple has shined. While Cook will never be able to emulate Jobs and his aura, his steady hand is appreciated on both Wall Street and Main Street.
Tellingly, it was Cook’s decision to pay dividends and repurchase stock that has some analysts remarking that he is finally putting his own stamp on the company. Steve Jobs stubbornly resisted paying dividends even when Apple was banking billions.
Overheated iPads represent first real challenge
Yet things are not always cool in Cupertino. Within days of the new iPad being available to the public, many users are complaining about devices that are literally too hot to handle.
Speculation is that some newest generation iPads are overheating as a result of the battery power required to generate the higher resolution Retina display. People are reporting that if the new iPad grows too warm, the device will stop operating until the temperature falls. While unusable, a message reads, “iPad needs to cool down before you can use it.” No similar complaints were reported for previous iPad models.
When pressed by the media and the public at large as to why this is happening, Apple responded to AllThingsD with the following non-answer:
“The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications. If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.”
Starting to look like iPhone 4 Antenna-Gate
We’ve seen previous versions of this movie before. Not long after the iPhone 4 became available in June of 2010, users complained of dropped calls while holding the device in a certain way. While the hardware glitch was later corrected, Apple’s PR crisis required Steve Jobs at the time to personally explain what happened during a well-publicized address.
While Jobs was not always a friend of the press, his quick and thorough explanation (and Apple’s offer to buy bumpers for anyone impacted!), allowed the company to move on with minimal damage.
Now with even Consumer Reports investigating, the over-heated iPad issue will not go away by itself. Apple will no doubt find a technological solution if significant problems persist. But the larger, more existential question for the company is how Cook communicates and connects with consumers. Many need to know that he is personally on the case.
Is Cook just a steward of the company filling space until a more inspiring alternative emerges?
Or will he use this opportunity to force skeptics to think differently about his role with Apple, and truly emerge as the face of the company?
We are all waiting for Cook’s response to this hot-button issue.