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May 12, 2014

Apple CEO dares to be different from Steve Jobs

SAN FRANCISCO — "Think different" became Apple's creed during the late Steve Jobs' reign as CEO. Now, chief executive Tim Cook is embracing the idea while making decisions that would have seemed crazy to his fabled predecessor.

Apple's pending purchase of headphone maker and streaming music company Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion is just the latest example of Cook's deviation from Jobs, who had so much confidence in his company's innovative powers that he saw little sense in spending large amounts of money on acquisitions.

Cook became chief executive in late August 2011, roughly six weeks before Jobs died. But in a number of ways, he is just beginning to put his own imprint on Apple. Cook is straying from Jobs' cash-hoarding habits by committing to return $130 billion to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks. He has orchestrated a company stock split and agreed to match employees' charitable contributions up to $10,000 annually.

Under Cook's leadership, Apple also has displayed more social responsibility by working to improve labor conditions in the overseas factories that assemble its devices and taking steps to reduce pollution caused by its data centers and gadgets.

The shift in management philosophy has resulted in an odd twist: Apple Inc.'s pace of innovation has slowed and it now looks more like a conventional company than the corporate rebel Jobs tried to cultivate. Instead of releasing revolutionary gadgets such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple has been mostly upgrading existing products and figuring out ways to manage its bulging bank account since Cook took over.

"Jobs wanted Cook to step out and be different," says longtime technology analyst Rob Enderle. "But I think he wanted (Cook) to do the things that were central to the business, not things that Jobs thought were stupid."

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