HTC deal suggests shift away from ‘war’
puters would be made in the U.S., or where the company might locate facilities. But bringing assembly-line jobs back to the U.S. lights a symbolic beacon of hope for working-class Americans who worry that the global economy has no use for them.
Cook’s reforms have been both internal and outward-facing. Earlier this year, he visited the Chinese factories where Apple products are assembled, amid an Apple-financed audit of working conditions. Shortly after, Foxconn promised to limit working hours and raise wages.
U.S. workers are getting a better deal too. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Apple will let some employees take up to two weeks of paid leave to work on pet projects that might benefit the company. The program is similar to a Google policy that lets workers devote 20 percent of their time on entrepreneurial “hobbies.”
In addition, the company matches employee donations up to $10,000 a year. Cook himself made $100 million in charitable donations early in the year, another contrast to Jobs, who had little interest in philanthropy.
Under Cook, Apple has also become more investor-friendly. Jobs, perhaps scarred by Apple’s lean years in the 1990s, was opposed to Apple parting with its cash reserves. That led to the company accumulating a nearly $100 billion in cash by the end of his tenure — a hoard that investors would have liked for themselves.
This year, Apple has begun sharing its wealth with investors for the first time in two decades, by paying dividends of nearly $10 billion a year.
Cook’s diplomacy has extended into enemy ter- ritory. Jobs was furious that phones running Google Inc.’s Android software mimicked Apple’s iPhone so closely and vowed to wage “thermonuclear war” against the company through patent infringement lawsuits. The worldwide onslaught of litigation is still ongoing, but in early November, Apple agreed to a cease-fire on one front: It settled all its patent suits against Google partner HTC Corp., a Taiwanese maker of smartphones.
The terms were not disclosed, but company watchers believe HTC will be paying Apple royalties on HTC phones, and some saw it as a sign that Apple was taking a more rational stance and starting to put Jobs’ take-no-prisoners fury behind it.
Carl Howe, an analyst with Yankee Group, says the emerging image of a “softer” Apple doesn’t mean Cook is a softie.
“Make no mistake: he’s not necessarily a kind, gentle guy if he needs to get something done. He’s a very hard-nosed, demanding boss,” Howe says.