Tim Cook was feeling his oats Tuesday — as much as his guarded personality will allow — tweaking the mostly male audience at a Goldman Sachs technology conference for its lack of diversity and poking fun at his host’s over-sized watch. (Transcript; streaming audio.)
It was the start of an unusually high-profile week for Cook, who is scheduled to speak Friday at a White House summit on cybersecurity.
And an eventful one, it turned out. While he was still on stage, Apple closed with a record market cap of $710.74 billion, leaving Exxon ($382 billion), Google ($365 billion) and Microsoft ($349 billion) in the dust.
“You will always remember exactly where you were,” said Goldman President and COO Gary Cohn, he of the unstylish watch.
Maybe. Or maybe there’ll be other, more memorable milestones.
Investors seems to be buying the story Cook has been telling at every opportunity since he took over for Steve Jobs four years ago: That Apple is not like other companies and — he added Tuesday — isn’t necessarily subject to Wall Street “dogma” like the one that says that having grown so big, a company must stop growing.
“We don’t believe in such laws as laws of large numbers,” Cook said, sending Jacob Bernoulli rolling in his grave once again. (See Apple and those LOL numbers.)
“How many laws did Apple break?” Jean-Louis Gassée asked in his latest Monday Note. He came up with four:
- Law 1: Larger size makes growth increasingly difficult.
- Law 2: Everything becomes a commodity.
- Law 3: Market share always wins.
- Law 4: Modularity Always Wins.
As self-serving as it sounds, Apple really is focused not on the numbers but — as Cook keeps saying — on making great products that enrich peoples’ lives. And when it comes to Apple’s great-product track record, the closest analogy is Pixar, the only Hollywood studio that makes box office hits and nothing else.
There’s another, deeper way that Apple under Tim Cook is not like other companies. I was reminded of it by Mark Bittman’s bleak vision on the New York Times OpEd page Wednesday of an earth despoiled by corporate interests unfettered by a compliant government.
“The business of America should not be business, but well-being,” Bittman writes in “What Is the Purpose of Society? “As unrepresentative as government might seem right now, there is at least a chance of improving it, whereas corporations will always act in their own interests.”
But here’s Tim Cook, worrying about Apple’s carbon footprint, building a $2 billion net-neutral data center in Arizona and — as he announced Tuesday — a $850 million solar farm in California’s Monterey County.
“Quite frankly,” Cook felt obliged to add, because this was a financial conference, “we are doing this because it is right to do, but you may also be interested to know that it’s good financially to do it.”