TIME Executives

Why It Matters Who Steve Jobs Really Was

Apple Unveils iPad 2
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple Special event to unveil the new iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco.

Dueling biographies fight over the story of Steve

In 2011 Walter Isaacson published a biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Isaacson’s biography was fully authorized by its subject: Jobs handpicked Isaacson, who had written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Entitled simply Steve Jobs, the book was well-reviewed and sold some 3 million copies.

But now its account is being challenged by another book, this one called Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender, a veteran technology journalist who was friendly with Jobs, and Rick Tetzeli, executive editor at Fast Company. Some of Jobs’ former colleagues and friends have taken sides, speaking out against the old book and praising the new one. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and Jobs’s successor, has said that Isaacson’s book depicts Jobs as “a greedy, selfish egomaniac.” Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief, has weighed in against it, and Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of software and Internet services, tweeted about the new book: “Well done and first to get it right.”

But who did get it right? And why do people care so much anyway?

(This article comes with a bouquet of disclosures, starting with the fact that Isaacson is a current contributor and former editor of TIME magazine and as such my former boss. I’m quoted in his biography—I interviewed Jobs half a dozen times in the mid-2000s, though he and I weren’t friendly. Schlender spent more than 20 years writing for Fortune, which is owned by TIME’s parent company, Time Inc., and Tetzeli was an editor both at Fortune and at Entertainment Weekly, also a Time Inc. magazine.)

Schlender and Tetzeli have given their book the subtitle “The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader,” and its emphasis is on the transformation that Jobs underwent between 1985, when he was ousted from Apple, and 1997, when he returned to it. “The most basic question about Steve’s career is this,” they write. “How could the man who had been such an inconsistent, inconsiderate, rash, and wrongheaded businessman … become the venerated CEO who revived Apple and created a whole new set of culture-defining products?” It’s an excellent question.

Becoming Steve Jobs is, like most books about Jobs, tough on his early years. He could be a callous person (he initially denied being the father of his first child) and a terrible manager (the original Macintosh, while magnificent in its conception, was only barely viable as a product). On this score Schlender and Tetzeli are clear and even-handed. It’s easy to forget that Jobs originally wanted Pixar, the animation firm he took over from George Lucas in 1986, to focus on selling its graphics technology rather than making movies, and if the geniuses there hadn’t been more independent he might have run it into the ground.

Schlender and Tetzeli argue that it was this middle period that made Jobs. The failure of his first post-Apple company, NeXT, chastened him; his work with Pixar’s Ed Catmull and John Lasseter taught him patience and management skills; and his marriage to Laurene Powell Jobs deepened him emotionally. In those wilderness years he learned discipline and (some) humility and how to iterate and improve a project gradually. Thus reforged, he returned to Apple and led it back from near bankruptcy to become the most valuable company in the world.

Schlender and Tetzeli strenuously insist that they’re upending the “common myths” about Jobs. But they’re not specific about who exactly believes these myths, and in fact it’s a bit of a straw man: there’s not much in Becoming Steve Jobs that Isaacson or anybody else would disagree with. What’s missing is more problematic: as it goes on, Becoming Steve Jobs gradually abandons its critical distance and becomes a paean to the greatness of Jobs and Apple. Jobs was “someone who preferred creating machines that delighted real people,” and his reborn Apple was “a company that could once again make insanely great computing machines for you and me.” It reprints the famous “Think Different” spiel in full. It compares Jobs’ career arc, without irony, to that of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story. It unspools sentences like: “Steve [we’re on a first-name basis with him] also understood that the personal satisfaction of accomplishing something insanely great was the best motivation of all for a group as talented as his.”

Read More: Apple’s Watch Will Make People and Computers More Intimate

It’s easy to see why Apple executives have endorsed Becoming Steve Jobs, but it has imperfections that would have irked Jobs himself. The writing is slack—it’s larded with clichés (“he wanted to play their game, but by his own rules”) and marred by small infelicities (it confuses jibe and gibe, twice). It lacks detail: for example, it covers Jobs’ courtship of and marriage to Laurene in two dry pages (“Their relationship burned intensely from the beginning, as you might expect from the pairing of two such strong-willed individuals”). By contrast, a Fortune interview Schlender did with Jobs and Bill Gates in 1991 gets 13 pages. Whatever its faults, Isaacson’s book at least dug up the telling details: in his account of the marriage we learn that Jobs was still agonizing over an ex-girlfriend; that he had a hilariously abortive bachelor party; that he threw out the calligrapher who was hired to do the wedding invitations (“I can’t look at her stuff. It’s shit”); and that the vegan wedding cake was borderline inedible.

Jobs was famously unintrospective, but Schlender and Tetzeli seem almost as incurious about his inner life as he supposedly was. Jobs’ birth parents were 23 when they conceived him, then they gave him up for adoption; when he was 23 Jobs abandoned his own first child. It takes a determinedly uninterested biographer not to connect those dots, or at least explain why they shouldn’t be connected. We hear a lot about what Jobs did, and some about how he did it, but very little about why.

Jobs was a man of towering contradictions: he identified deeply with the counterculture but spent his life in corporate boardrooms amassing billions; he made beautiful products that ostensibly enabled individual creativity but in their architecture expressed a deep-seated need for central control. Maybe making educated guesses about a major figure’s private life is unseemly, or quixotic, but that’s the game a biographer is in. Ultimately there’s no point in comparing Steve Jobs and Becoming Steve Jobs, because the latter book isn’t really a biography at all, much less a definitive one.

A more interesting question might be, why has the story of Steve Jobs become so important to us? And why is it such contested territory? He’s also the subject of a scathing new documentary by Alex Gibney and an upcoming biopic written by Aaron Sorkin. Was Jobs, to use Schlender and Tetzeli’s terminology, an asshole, or a genius, or some mysterious fusion of the two? It’s as if Jobs’ life has become a kind of totem, a symbolic story through which we’re trying to understand and work through our own ambivalence about the technology he and his colleagues made, which has so thoroughly invaded and transformed our lives in the past 20 years, for good and/or ill. Apple’s products are so glossy and beautiful and impenetrable that it’s difficult to do anything but admire them. But about Jobs, at least, we can think ­different.

Read next: Becoming Steve Jobs Shares Jobs’ Human Side

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TIME Apple

This Is How Terrifying It Was to Pitch Steve Jobs a New Idea

Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivering a keynote address to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.
Paul Sakuma—AP Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivering a keynote address to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.

“Are you smart? Are you going to waste my time?”

“The first time we met he walked into the room, looked around, realized that I was new, walked up to me and asked (all in one breath), “Are you smart? Do you know what you are talking about? Are you going to waste my time?”

So begins Brett Bilbrey’s 715-word response to the question “What was it like to deliver a presentation to Steve Jobs?” on the crowd-sourced Q&A site Quora.

It’s a response that has drawn some attention—315,000 views, 4,800 upvotes—since it was posted last month because Bilbrey was not just any third-party developer pitching a new app. He was a prolific Apple inventor and a key team manager whose name appears on more than 50 patents and whose engineers developed, among other products, Apple TV and the Mac Mini. From 2008 until his retirement in February he headed the company’s top-secret Technology Advancement Group charged with developing forward-looking technology for products of which he cannot speak.

But he can talk about what it was like to deal with a notoriously difficult boss.

Steve was wicked smart,” he writes. “I was always amazed at how sharp he was and how quickly he could focus on what was important. I don’t know ANYONE that even comes close to how good he was at being able to do that.”

“Don’t just read the story,” says The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple. “Read the comments too.”

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple AAPL coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Executives

Starbucks CEO: Giuliani’s Obama Remarks ‘Vicious’

Howard Schultz
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz participates in a forum in Washington on Nov. 10, 2014.

The outspoken chief executive responded forcefully to the former New York mayor's comments

Though he recently told TIME he has no personal political ambitions, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hasn’t stopped stepping into the political fray.

On Friday, Schultz issued a statement lambasting former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Giuliani’s recent declaration that President Obama doesn’t love America. The comments were “vicious” and “profoundly offensive,” Schultz said.

Politico reported that on Wednesday, Giuliani was speaking at a private dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker when he said: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Schultz issued the following statement: “As an American, I find Rudy Giuliani’s vicious comments about President Obama ‘not loving America’ to be profoundly offensive to both the President and the Office.”

A Starbucks spokesperson on Friday morning said: “We are not providing any additional commentary around it.”

Schultz doesn’t hesitate to weigh in on political issues. In December, he raised some eyebrows when he addressed the shootings of black suspects by police offers. During an Open Forum at the Starbucks Support center in Seattle, he encouraged employees to talk about their own experiences with racism He released a video of that event, and, in a letter sent exclusively to TIME, he expressed his dismay over the situation. “I’m deeply saddened by what I have seen, and all too aware of the ripple effect,” he wrote.

Schultz has often decried the political gridlock in Washington. He has also addressed the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 an hour. On that issue, he tends to be circumspect. Starbucks pays more than the minimum wage and offers healthy benefits packages. Schultz supports raising the federal minimum, but he has said that raising it by too much—say, to $15 an hour, as some activists have demanded—would put a crimp on businesses, and lead to lower benefits and layoffs.

 

TIME Executives

Dear Tech Executives: Nobody Cares if You’re ‘Thrilled’

Inside Google Inc.'s New Toronto Offices
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Patrick Pichette, chief financial officer of Google.

Executives have gotten too comfortable offering less than a no-comment—a comment of negative value—by telling us what they're feeling

The quarterly call that executives hold to discuss earnings is, short of face-to-face meetings, the best chance for investors to get a sense of a company’s financial health. Over and over again, the analysts on these calls focus their questions on pressing for metrics or hard numbers to gauge that health.

It’s one thing for executives to be bashful about sharing too much data that could help their competitors. It’s another for them to try and replace cold hard numbers with a completely useless commodity: a confessional on how a CEO or CFO is feeling in the moment.

Yet this is an unwelcome trend in tech earnings, where over and over tech leaders who are smart enough to know better keep repeating how thrilled they are, how excited, how they couldn’t be happier about all the boring little incremental developments that apparently please them to no end. It’s unwelcome because these calls aren’t support groups. Investors tune in to decide whether they should buy, sell or hold a company’s stock.

Take Google. On a recent earnings call, Citigroup analyst Mark May asked a reasonable question about Compute Engine, Google’s cloud services platform. “What sort of impact is that having on revenue or expenses and capex for the business?” “We’re really thrilled by the momentum,” Google CFO Patrick Pichette replied.

A no comment would have sufficed here. But Pichette offered less than a no-comment, a comment of negative value, a subjective emotion as answer to a mathematical question. It’s like ordering food at a restaurant and being served a picture of someone who just had a yummy meal. It neither nourishes nor satisfies.

And yet Pichette and Chief Business Officer Omid Kordestani went on to mention how thrilled they were about this or that (we’re thrilled to be a platform!) six more times during the call. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a thrill as “an intense emotion or excitement” that causes “a subtle nervous tremor.” The word comes from the English “thirl,” meaning to pierce something with a sharp instrument–to bore it, which is what Pichette and Kordestani were doing to their audience.

Nor were they the only corporate thrillseekers. “Overall, I’m thrilled with the progress we made across all of our initiatives,” Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky said on Thursday. But at least Groupon’s stock rose 25% on the evidence of that progress. So even if Lefkofsky wasn’t exactly atremble with joy over the company’s progress, the surge in value Friday of his Groupon shares surely enlivened his mood.

Not so for Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s shares fell 10% on warnings of slower growth and heavier spending. The normally low-key Zuckerberg had no thrills to report but he does get excited pretty easily–nine times in last week’s earnings call. Most people in the Bay Area get excited when the Giants win the World Series, but for Zuckerberg it’s a new ad platform, deep linking or “partnering with credit card companies.”

This is fine, in a nerdy way. But the point is, on Wall Street nobody cares about excitement levels, even with an influential executive like Zuckerberg. The numbers Facebook delivered meant everything in the selloff. The emotional state over at Hacker Way meant nothing. So why do executives even bother?

Sometimes the hyperbole defies common sense, as when Greg Blatt, chairman of IAC’s Match Group, which owns OKCupid and Tinder, explained that Tinder isn’t being monetized right now but that he “couldn’t be happier.” But wouldn’t surging revenue and profits from the popular Tinder app make him happier? Because it would probably make investors in IAC feel better.

Perhaps the king of earnings hyperbole is Apple’s Tim Cook. Which seems strange because Cook gives off this constant Zen vibe. “It’s just absolutely stunning,” Cook said about Mac sales to a group of investors who were completely not stunned. Later, Cook added, “I could not be more excited about the road ahead in fiscal 2015.”

At one point in last week’s call, Cook said he “couldn’t be happier” about Apple’s ability to supply its new iPhone lines. Then, only a few seconds later, he said he “couldn’t be happier with the way demand looks.” Which is either a direct contradiction or a crazy business koan that, once cracked, will yield immediate enlightenment.

The effect of such relentless hyperbole is that, when companies do have good news to be excited about, investors just dismiss it as more hollow rhetoric. Instead, it’s the immediate, often knee-jerk reaction to the stock price that sets the consensus on how well or poorly a company is performing financially. The thicker the happy feelings are layered on, the more they are distrusted as more corporate spin.

Of course, such grandiose language is also to be found outside of the tech industry. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Friday said he was “beyond thrilled” to be announcing—not blowout profits or guidance surpassing Wall Street’s hopes—but a new roastery Starbucks is opening in December.

Maybe Schultz is on to something. Taking his words “beyond thrilled” at face value could be good advice for overexcited executives in general: Hurry up and get past your declarations thrills/excitements/pleasures. Because the rest of the market is already well beyond caring about them.

And while you’re at it, more numbers would be helpful.

TIME Executives

Rupert Murdoch Is getting Hammered for This Tweet

Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Pool—Getty Images Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman News Corporation looks on during a panel discussion at the B20 meeting of company CEO's on July 17, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.

Media mogul says Google is worse than the NSA when it comes to privacy

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.

Twitter users have spent the past day or so letting Rupert Murdoch know that a billionaire media mogul who has been forced to shutter a newspaper over a phone-hacking scandal might not be an appropriate moral authority when it comes to privacy issues.

Murdoch’s Twitter feed is often full of one-off pieces of commentary on people and events in the news, but the CEO of News Corp and 21st Century Fox lighted upon a fairly touchy subject on Sunday when he fired off the following tweet:

Twitter users quickly took to the social media platform to accuse Murdoch of hypocrisy in criticizing another company’s policies regarding privacy after his former newspaper, the News of the World, endured a phone-hacking scandal that landed more than one editor in prison over the past decade. Several of the replies to Murdoch’s tweet yesterday included some variation on the words “irony” and “hypocrite,” along with references to the News of the World scandal.

Several other users replied by pointing out the trouble with Murdoch’s comparison of the NSA and Google, namely that Google has publicly admitted that it scans users emails to be used in targeted ads, while the NSA has denied charges of domestic spying. Not every Internet user may be thrilled with Google’s practices, but they are still able to choose whether or not to use the company’s products.

TIME Executives

The World’s Most Powerful Men Love This One, Strange Thing

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein Addresses The Investment Company Institute Meeting
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Not exactly what you’d expect

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Anne VanderMey

According to Google auto-fill, one of the most searched terms relating to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is, “What watch does Lloyd Blankfein wear?”

We have the answer: It’s a Swatch, a simple plastic timepiece that retails in the ballpark of $100. In fact, the executive has several of them—including a black one for formal events.

If you work on Wall Street, you’ve probably seen the look before: good suit, unremarkable shoes, digital watch. Witness Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone. Schwarzman not only owns multiple Swatches, he wears them in funky colors and designs. One particularly bright-colored edition bears the landmarks of his vacation home in St. Tropez.

Public-facing figures like Schwarzman and Blankfein may be expected to dress without excessive bling. And yet, as Google attests, it’s curious to see a plastic bangle on some of American business’s most powerful men. The list of power players who sport Swatches goes on: Tony Blair has one, as does French president Francois Hollande. U.K. hedge fund trader Chris Hohn has had a black one for years. AllianceBernstein CEO Peter Kraus is a fan of the brand. Even the boss of luxury watch maker Patek Phillipe reportedly wears one while skiing.

In a statement to Fortune, Switzerland’s Swatch Group didn’t have much to say about why politicians and executives might want to wear the budget accessory. The company’s Swiss roots and artistic designs may play a role, a spokeswoman said. When the Swatch was introduced as an alternative to Asian mass production in the 1980s, it was credited with helping to save the Swiss watchmaking industry. Ultimately, though, the watch brand’s patronage among the high and mighty is a bit of a mystery. “We assume that politicians have their reasons for wearing our watches,” the spokeswoman wrote, “but we don’t know what those reasons are.”

For the rest of the story, please visit Fortune.com.

TIME compensation

These Are the 15 Highest-Paid Women in America

Stanford University SIEPR Economic Summit
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Safra Catz, co-president of Oracle Corp.

Last year was a banner year for executive compensation

Corporate America is still largely run by men. But women are catching up. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Sixty percent of the top U.S. companies now have at least two women on their executive committees.” Female leaders have dominated headlines in recent years, leading mergers, overseeing IPOs, acquiring companies, and defining their organizations’ overall strategy. So who are these powerful women? Research engine FindTheBest studied public company filings with the SEC to find out, compiling the following list of the 15 highest compensated female executives of 2013.

Perhaps the best-known name from the list above is Sheryl Sandberg, who served as VP of sales and operations at Google before joining Facebook as COO in 2008. The Lean In author has since helped Facebook through a shaky IPO and refined the company’s increasingly important mobile strategy. She earned $16.1 million in total annual compensation in 2013.

Also an ex-Google exec is Marissa Mayer, who left her position as a VP in 2012 to help bring Yahoo—then floundering to stay afloat—back above water as CEO. During her first year, Mayer acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion and saw Yahoo’s stock prices rise by 73 percent. She returned $3 billion back to shareholders through selling Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba (a Chinese e-commerce company) and, in the process, made $24.9 million for herself.

Another powerhouse from the tech world, Meg Whitman made $17.6 million in 2013. Although she’s the former CEO of eBay and current CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman’s credentials extend beyond tech. She’s held executive positions at a swath of companies including Hasbro Inc., The Stride Rite Corporation (a footwear company), Bain & Company and Walt Disney. She also ran for CA governor in 2010.

Although Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Meg Whitman are among the biggest household names for female execs, none of them took the spot of top earner. Number one went to the CFO of Oracle, Safra Catz. Not only did Catz make more than did any other female executive ($44.3 million), but she topped the The Wall Street Journal’s report of the highest paid CFO’s in 2013, earning more than every male CFO. This article was written for TIME by Kiran Dhillon of FindTheBest.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s What to Do If Your Boss Kind of Hates You

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J.A. Bracchi—Getty Images

In an ideal world, we’d all get along great with everybody we report to. Here’s what to do if that's not the case

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In an ideal world, we’d all get along great with everybody we report to. Here’s what to do if that isn’t happening.

Dear Annie: I’ve had my current job as a human resources manager for about a year-and-a-half, and everything was going fine until we got a new boss from outside the department. He seems to have a need to do everything himself. I’ve also come across instances where he has snooped behind my back to find out what I’ve been doing. Today, I found out he asked my admin for details of my attendance at the office, “just to check” on me.

At the same time, he is really nice to other members of my team, which leads me to conclude that, for some reason, he just doesn’t like me. In the beginning, I tried to build a rapport with him but, after being snubbed more than once, I just don’t want to make the effort any more. Is there anything I can do, besides find a new boss? — Odd Man Out

Dear O.M.O.: You probably don’t want to hear this but, if you want to stay in this job, you’re going to have to keep trying. “This is hard, because you have to humble yourself a little and find a way to see things from this manager’s point of view,” says Karin Hurt, CEO of Baltimore-based executive coaching firm Let’s Grow Leaders. She wrote a book, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship with Your Boss, that you might find useful.

A good starting point: Assume nothing. The fact that this boss came in from the outside is significant, because it means he may be used to doing things in a different way. “A certain amount of micromanagement and what looks like ‘snooping’ may just be standard behavior in the organization he came from,” Hurt notes. “It’s annoying, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t like you.”

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

TIME Apple

Apple Execs Ranked by Their Keynote Performances

Apple’s keynotes have always had a certain mystique, complete with seamless product demos, smooth promotional videos, and a class-of-the-industry organizational flow. While a great product can sometimes speak for itself, it’s the people behind the performances that really sell these events, from Phil Schiller to Tim Cook to Craig Federighi.

With that said, not every Apple exec can sell a $600 device like Steve Jobs. We watched Apple keynotes over the last seven years with an eye for style, strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s what we found:

Apple’s Best Keynote Speakers

6. Tim Cook

Likes: memorizing lines, rehearsing

Dislikes: improvisation

 

Cook’s never been especially engaging as a speaker, with a slow and steady demeanor that borders on over-rehearsed. It doesn’t help that he tends to cover the least interesting content, whether that’s how fast tickets sold out or why Apple just built an Apple Store in Berlin.

Like the iPhone itself, however, Cook has improved incrementally over the years, sounding less memorized and more relaxed, particularly during Monday’s WWDC keynote. He’s also learned to hand the stage over quickly, which has allowed Cook to play the snappy tour guide instead of the dawdling storyteller.

Finest moment: The beginning of the 2014 WWDC keynote

5. Scott Forstall

Likes: being smarter than you

Dislikes: acknowledging mistakes

 

The former Apple executive used to be a keynote staple, serving as Jobs’ #2 presenter in the years following the launch of the iPhone. Forstall was never bad, but he carried a certain smugness on stage, a tendency made worse by controversial releases like Siri and Apple Maps. He had a habit of pointing to the scoreboard (ex: sales, overall satisfaction) in the face of legitimate customer grievances (ex: Game Center, directions).

To be fair, his iOS expertise and raw intelligence always made Forstall a competent presenter, but the attitude behind the words carries a lasting legacy.

In sports, commentators often say that underdog teams in big games are “just happy to be there.” For Forstall, it was the opposite. Of course he should be there. He was the best.

Finest moment: Forstall’s 2011 presentation on iOS 5

4. Phil Schiller

Likes: geeky stats

Dislikes: basic but necessary information

 

Schiller is a fine presenter: knowledgeable, well-rehearsed, properly-paced—you know, the sort of guy Microsoft would kill to have on hand for its next Surface announcement. Still, Schiller’s routine is predictable. He winds up slowly, hits peak enthusiasm when covering the geekiest details (ex: breaking down a MacBook’s internals), then lands with a bit of a thud when he finally gets around to summary details (ex: pricing, release date).

That said, Schiller’s sensible, everyman demeanor works to great comic effect when he’s forced to do a funny FaceTime chat or physical stunt. Though the most absurd routines have tapered off in recent years, he was once Steve Jobs’ most trusted comedic sidekick. Crucially, Schiller’s play acting always comes off as more reluctant than showy, making him the one Apple presenter whose jokes never seem the least bit arrogant.

Finest moment: Schiller’s “death dive” gag in 1999

3. Jony Ive

Likes: high-minded, philosophical musing

Dislikes: physical stages

 

With phrases like “crystalline diamonds,” “unapologetically plastic,” and “highly-polished chamfered edge,” it’s a miracle Ive can get through Apple’s product videos with a straight face. But Jony’s magic always comes along about halfway through each video, where, despite all the platitudes, Jimmy Kimmel jokes and YouTube spoof videos, you find yourself nodding along. As a matter of fact, I do want a phone with a “bespoke assembly” and “a clear lacquer hard coat.”

Only Ive would describe electronic gadgets in such lofty, ludicrous terms…and yet, only Ive could pull it all off. While he doesn’t do keynotes, Ive has become such a staple in Apple product videos that he deserves mention on this list.

Finest moment: Selling a plastic, year-old phone (iPhone 5c) as “the distillation of what people love about the iPhone 5.”

2. Craig Federighi

Likes: everything

Dislikes: nothing

 

A rising star and natural speaker, Federighi is by far the most charismatic presenter currently at the company. Regardless of the product, topic or audience response, he emits an unwavering, boyish enthusiasm, beaming his way through spec lists, bad jokes, and routine product demos. Before 2012, he was a small-time extra, lucky to be on stage for 10 minutes at a time. Since then, he’s become the face of Apple’s keynotes, presenting for nearly 50% of WWDC 2013, and fully 70% of Monday’s event.

Federighi’s not perfect: he loves sprinkling his comments with empty superlatives (“incredible,” “awesome,” “really nice”), while his constantly cheerful buzz leaves little room for emphasis (how do we know what’s important and what’s not?). But his ability to make 78 minutes of keynote fly by faster than an episode of Silicon Valley makes him easily the best presenter of all current Apple employees.

Finest moment: Owning the stage for 70% of the 2014 WWDC keynote

1. Steve Jobs

Likes: bold, blanket statements

Dislikes: unreceptive audiences

 

In the end, of course, there can only be one choice for Apple’s greatest presenter: Jobs himself. With the confidence of Forstall, the mesmerizing qualities of Ive and the enthusiasm of Federighi, Jobs combined the strengths of his successors to sell everything from the iMac to the iPhone. Jobs also had the Clintonian ability to make people believe something just by saying it. Ive needs pleasant music, a white background, expensive machinery and a non-specific European accent to convince people: all Jobs had to do was open his mouth.

Jobs did have a speaking flaw—he would get visibly annoyed at his own audience when they didn’t respond how he expected—but his various gifts far outweighed the occasional flash of temper.

Apple might still be able to put on a show, but today it needs four guys to do it. Before, one was enough.

Finest moment: Announcing “three revolutionary products” in 2007

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME

One of CEOs’ Most Powerful Tools Is Starting to Look Dull

NYSE Opens For Trading A Day After Major Losses
John Moore—Getty Images

A lot has been made in recent years of the record amount of corporate cash on the balance sheets–around $2 trillion in U.S., and the same amount in firms’ bank accounts abroad–as well as the fact that companies aren’t spending it. But the latter isn’t totally true. Firms have shelled out some cash, just not by investing in factories or equipment or new workers. They’ve done it with share buybacks, which involves a firm buying back its own shares on the open market. This almost inevitably raises a company’s share price, thus enriching existing shareholders.

Many companies see this as a more flexible way of returning cash to shareholders than giving out dividends, because they don’t have to set and meet specific dividend targets but can just buyback shares as and when they like. But some critics say that it’s just a way to make the rich richer, without actually putting a firm’s capital to use creating jobs and growth in some more sustainable way. Either way, it’s been one of the major trends in the market in the last five years. As I’ve written in many stories, including this cover profile of Carl Icahn, the volume of share buybacks in the US has been at record levels in recent years. Indeed, the total volume of buybacks in the first quarter of this year amongst S&P companies was higher than it’s been since the third quarter of 2007, before the subprime crisis really got going.

Now, that’s changing. As a new report by London-based Capital Economics points out, share buybacks have begun to slow just a little bit. Having risen by more than the broader market in each of the last five years, the S & P 500 Buyback Index has risen by less than that so far in 2014. To understand what that might mean for the markets, you have to understand what the history of share buyback data actually tells us.

The most interesting research on this topic has been done by William Lazonick, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, whom I’ve written about in the past. His data show that while firms may want you to think that buybacks are a vote of confidence in their own stock, buybacks are typically done not during bear markets in which stocks are undervalued, but during bull markets, particularly end bull markets, when companies are trying to ride a wave of price increases that have little to do with fundamentals. Indeed, Lazonick shows that while buybacks provide a short-term sugar hit, they tend to go hand in hand with lower margins and growth prospects over the longer term (paging Apple and Yahoo). That may be because if you look at four decades of data, buybacks tend to increase at the same time that spending on research and development is falling. In short, companies pay out their seed corn to investors, rather than re-investing in themselves by developing new businesses, hiring or retraining workers, building new factories, etc., etc.

I think the fact buybacks are now slowing could foreshadow a larger market slowdown, or even a broader correction in stocks (the Capital folks agree). We’ve already seen a correction, of course, in very over valued areas like technology and certain emerging markets. And the fact that the big blue chips are finally starting to buy back less of their own stock could indicate that they see a slowdown coming, too.

Ultimately, the valuation of stocks reflects the future earning potential of companies. While there are lot of things in the economic environment right now that are good for companies–interest rates are still low, the U.S. economy is improving–I keep thinking about the fact that people having gotten a raise in five years. As long as wages stay flat, and spending is relatively constrained, it’s hard to imagine the market staying this high forever. The slowing of share buybacks may turn out to be the canary in that particular coal mine.

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