At the intersection of fashion and technology, is retail chief Angela Ahrendts Apple's next CEO?

47 thoughts on “At the intersection of fashion and technology, is retail chief Angela Ahrendts Apple's next CEO?”

  1. Despite Tim Cook’s assurances, Apple is still Apple? He assures that very fact, not the opposite. Is that a typo? Tim Cook doesn’t want to change Apple’s culture, and he’s not going to allow some outsider to do that. He’s been pretty charitable about giving screen time to other executives (not only Jony Ive, but Craig Federighi, and Phil Schiller).

    He may very well allow Angela more leeway, especially as Apple’s wearables start rolling out. Retail was built for such releases, and probably even more so for wearable computing jewelry. This doesn’t change Apple’s DNA.

  2. Apple probably needs to move more in the direction of allowing more access to Executives and perhaps they are already on that path. There was once a time where
    Jobs did most of the presentation. His health declined and suddenly we were seeing more of Schiller and Forstall. Craig Federighi is a budding star.

    I think the new Apple “is” opening up. Schiller is on Twitter and things are becoming more of an Ensemble Cast. I think Angela Ahrendts is going to fit in here nicely. Her business savvy, personal moxie and good looks should be a nice fit with the mix of Apple.

    Excited to see what kind of impact she can make. I think Apple Stores are in need of some remaking.

    1. I am not sure how close you are to the company, but I follow them and can categorically tell you that they are closed as ever. It is impossible to get any clarification or detail, forget about access to executives, especially if you are not one of the pre-approved people who is willing to airbrush the warts.

      I am hopeful that she is a great leader of change and make company realize its place in the world. I am cautiously optimistic, but you know what they say, you can’t really turn a dog’s tail into a rod.

      1. As an ex-Apple employee worked from 2000-2007 i personally don’t want Apple to change its culture. Even though it is a closed culture i cherish every bit of it and that allowed us to focus and innovate. Open world has too much noise and distracts Apple and its people. Don’t forget this very culture has produced three revolutionary products that changed the course of digital industry. Open world may have better benefits but believe me Apple doesn’t need it.

  3. Why do you want Apple to change its communication style? Its relationship with people is thru its products, not its executives. I’m glad Tim Cook is doubling down on secrecy. No point in talking to journalists anyway, since most of them seem to have drawn their conclusions about Apple already.

    1. agreed. Om has a different view than average consumers because he is the media that is seeking the communication for his own product (this site, etc). as a normal consumer im happy as a clam with them executive communication policies.

      1. Guys

        Think of it this way — by being non effective communicators they are facing the challenge of constant misinformation as was the case for past few months which lead to negative chatter which in turn led to stock market negativity which in turn led to a lot of people in the company getting nervous about things.

        While it is good to hold media accountable as you guys seems to indicate, not being communicative does act as a negative force.

        Hope I have made myself clear and again appreciate your comments and engagement!

        1. Om, I like you articles but in this case i have to disagree with you. The new generation which started at Apple may think about its stock price and wall street but many of the folks who worked under SJ, we hardly looked at our stock or wall street. I will be really disappointed if Apple starts to work just to please wall street or media. Your points has its own merits but stock price is not always a testament to com pan’s performance. Classic example would be your favorite company Yahoo! – stock has gone up more than 100% but they have failed to release a single meaningful product. Apple doesn’t need to change its culture just to please wall street, media and journalists. we don’t want fragmented comments from Apple executives rather as customer i prefer singular tone from Apple.

          1. If Apple starts opening up their communication style, there will invariably be a bunch of media reports about how that it’s a sign of insecurity (and they’d probably be right). It’s tough being on top. Whatever they do or say there will be slings and arrows and doubt and nervous Wall Street investors (are they ever not nervous?). It’s like being a political leader: anything you say or do is going to be criticized by the opposing party as being weak or dumb or whatever.

          2. If Apple opens up their communication style, there will invariably be a bunch of reports saying it reflects their insecurity (and they’d probably be right). Apple should focus on mastering the internet as they’ve mastered materials and form factors. Word of mouth about crappy Maps or Messages are far more damaging than what some no-name from Forbes or Bloomberg or WSJ says about Apple’s lack of “innovation”.

  4. Om,

    An observation that Apple may have jumped the shark … with its flagship iPhone, the 5s Apple is making a fashion statement with the gold and silver options as a *priority* while saving a few pennies by gypping 5s owners on the accelerometer. The 5s accelerometer is a 6-bit Bosch MEMS chip, according to the Chipworks breakdown analysis. However, the iPhone 5 (and 5c?), 4S and 4 all had 16-bit accelerometers from a different vendor. This really says something about a possible shifting mindset at Apple which is essentially to increase emphasis on the pretty fashion aspects while regressing on the technology (with the added consequence of making Wall St. happy on margins?).

    1. unless your an engineer closely involved w/ the intimate details of the M7 and iphone platform, i dont think youre in any way qualified to even question its bit-rate.

      also: the gold iphone is the most popular & sought-after iphone in history. not jumping the shark.

      also: do you remember ipod socks? google them. awful.

  5. Eddie, that was a an interesting technical comment and indictment of some sorts. That said, I agree with Om, this was an inspired choice and I really do wonder what the courting was like for Angela to come to Apple. That said, organizations need to infuse their ranks with talent, and at least there seems to be a cohesive vision that wearables are the future. Perhaps Apple with Steve Jobs wouldn’t need to reach outside so aggressively, but with Tim Cooke , it does.

  6. Burberry serves a more diverse set of customers than you give them credit for. From the chavs on London’s inner city streets in Burberry tartan caps to the celebrities who buy Prorsum looks from the runway.

    “How will Ahrendts do without the digital team at Burberry?” seems to imply she’ll arrive at Apple to find no such team worthy of the name. It’s not that Apple doesn’t have the internet gene, it’s more a case of the gene being poorly expressed. Maybe Ahrendts is the one to properly regulate those proteins,

    The fact that Burberry under Ahrendts seems the opposite of Apple’s history with social strikes me as more good news, not bad news. “They have nowhere to fall but upwards” is the phrase I have in mind.

    The fundamental question is: are you right in assuming that Ahrendts the rockstar was an expression of her own genes/memes, or was it a chameleonic expression of the makeup of Burberry itself? Is she a rockstar by nature, or by nurture? Personally, I expect she is more of the latter…”rockstarring” is simply part of the fashion industry, especially of the fashion industry done well.

    My optimism comes with far less caution than yours. At Apple she will be an expression of chameleonic quietness, but still often the loudest in that quiet room. She’ll fit in, and she’ll also stretch them in necessary ways.

    1. Jonathan

      As a long time believer in Apple, I welcome your optimism, but I remain cautious, mostly because it is hard to ignore their history. I also believe — after talking to several insiders — that Internet remains a vexing problem for the company.

      1. I’m curious by what exactly you mean by “(the) Internet remains a vexing problem for the company (Apple)”.

        Exactly what problems can you point out to the company that put the Internet in our pockets. And before that, the company that was directly responsible through their innovative products (NeXt) that gave birth to the World Wide Web as we know it today through Tim Berner Lee.

        Also don’t forget that the iTunes and App Stores are by far the most profitable digital delivery stores in the world for producers and developers.

        Last but not least, Google still benefits more from iOS users accessing the Internet seamlessly than from Android; and this just in: Facebook ads are almost 2000% more effective on iOS than Android.

        What exactly would you like to teach Apple about the Internet?

        1. Pixeldoc

          Thank you for your comment. While I don’t disagree with any of your comments about the role played by next in the past – but theta was decades ago. Usage of safari browser is what makes google search work and also Facebook ads — but they are not apple products.

          What I am talking about is company’s ability to bring to life internet native products to life at scale, something companies like amazon and google do quite well. The maps is a debacle that is a reminder that apple doesn’t quite grok services quite well. At scale, they have built one great internet app- iTunes Store and iTunes Match. Even those have challenges. I am working on a post and hopefully will go into greater detail about their challenges that include scaling Siri and building internet into their products.

          The reason I am delaying the post is because I want it to be prescriptive and not just pointing out the problems. Hopefully you will come back to read it,

          Thanks for your time and comment

  7. >*She is used to being the center of attention and being able to access reporters and give interviews.”

    Would you ever write something like this about a male executive? Serious question. Is there any article in your past where you said something like this about a man?

    1. JohnyWoo,

      You are trying to make it a sexist thing. My description, is not about her being a woman – her role demanded her to being the center of attention Burberry didn’t have any rockstar designers like say Marc Jacobs and she was the rock star. She was center stage and center of attention as a result. Come back more often and you will see that I keep it clear and simple, regardless of gender.

  8. So glad the cat is out of the bag, so to speak.

    I mean, it’s long been a sport to slam Apple and its product line as hardly more than fashionista fluff-tech.

    But with the credible emergence of wearable tech, that sissified corporate image no longer seems a personality flaw, but a central asset. A new large, rich, addressable market seems to await Apple’s pixie dust.

    Thus, certain writers on technology face a big shift in their job description — ditching the now outdated snide put-down vocabulary, wising up about fashion (gasp!), and trying to grasp how the white horseman managed to pull up alongside their blind spot.

  9. I wonder if Ahrendts’ “rock star” status will not be a detraction, but rather a key reason Cook chose her to run retail. Unlike the other SVPs, as head of retail, Ahrendts would not be managing secret projects. To the contrary, hers is the most public-facing position in the company. Cook is a fine manager, but unlike Jobs, he is hardly a “rock star” CEO who can sway the masses with sheer charisma. I would not be surprised if Ahrendts is intended to help fill that void.

    1. Sumocat,

      Thanks for your comment. All valid points, but the company’s history is that of giving limited exposure to its employees. I am hopeful that they will change the rules a little bit for her, as she could give them a lift in the marketplace/or give a perception of change. All remains to be seen.

      1. Apple is bigger than individuals and i don’t think it needs to mend its ways for one individual no matter how great that person is. What people did in the past and what they accomplished doesn’t matter they have to reset themselves and embrace Apple culture.
        Apple has its weird ways but after all its designed and built for crazy ones. Coming to Maps and Siri they are data intrinsic more you mine the data better it gets. I agree with you Apple has to learn from maps and siri. But its not that Google got the maps right on day one. I got lost 100% of the times using Google maps in its early days i used to fall back on MapQuest. However, Google got more and more data through its search and maps and mined it properly. Products like maps and siri get better with data and Google gets that through their search. Fortunately i never had problems with Apple maps. First she needs to do a good job as retail and online head before becoming CEO.

  10. No no no no. I shudder at the thought of her as the next CEO. She may prove fantastic as head of retail, and I hope she will. But please no degree-in-Merchandising-and-Marketing persona for Apple’s CEO. Please please no.

  11. > “I look at the future and can’t but help think that Ahrendts could be the inheritor to the CEO throne.”

    Om, I think you nailed it about inheriting the CEO crown. Tim Cook is a logistical master in every respect, and that extends from equality and diversity on his management team to succession planning when the day Tim passes on the leadership mantle to his successor.
    There really isn’t a future CEO in the current leadership team at Apple. Ahrendts is the anointed next CEO of Apple.

  12. Apple hired Ahrendts to run retail, a much bigger job than running all of Burberry.

    Speculation that Apple needs a new CEO, or that the tech giant would be best run by a fashion brand executive, is purely absurd nonsense.

    Apple doesn’t intend to make Ahrendts its CEO any more than it planned to make any other retail hire its CEO.

    Apple’s core value is primarily its operational expertise. It needs to develop great products and needs excellent marketing and sales, but the person to run Apple is an operations expert, and nobody knows that better than Tim Cook, who has been quietly orchestrating Apple’s operational expertise for well over a decade of incredible growth.

    Even suggesting that Apple needs a new CEO or that it is serious thinking of promoting a retail expert to lead all facets of the world’s most successful and efficient profit engine is mind-blowingly moronic even to suggest as click bait chatter.

    1. Daniel

      It is always delightful to be labelled a moron. Adds a special level of satisfaction as a writer.

      If you read the article and not skimmed it (I am assuming like you assumed that my view is moronic) you would see that it is a guess as to her being a future ceo candidate as apple moves into a newer category.

      As a lifestyle brand, apple will need a retail expertise CEO. As I said, this is not today or tomorrow or even next year. But eventually Tim Cook will retire and when that happens a slew of candidates are going to be up for nomination, and she be a strong candidate.

      And when that happens, maybe you and I can have a conversation again, which doesn’t start with assumptions of being moronic.

      Thanks for your comment and time!

      1. That was my first thought when I read more about her. Is she the anointed one? Of course not, but if Apple expands into where I think it is expanding (see my comment below), and if things break a certain way, then of course she would be in the running. But that would be years from now.

        I just think that to lure a proven successful CEO to take on a subordinate role, the job scope and description as well as Apple’s direction as described by Tim must have been too big and exciting to pass up and the potential for advancement (even with nothing said or promised or even hinted at via a raised eyebrow) must have been apparent. I presume she’s sharp enough to figure that out two seconds after Tim rolled out the proposed position chart.

      2. I have a hard time believing that’s the real Daniel Eran Dilger from AppleInsider. He is a crazy partisan, but surely he must know the difference between a clickbait artist and the great Om Malik. While I disagree with Om on some of the above points, he is definitely not a moron. However, I do think it is fairly easy when ones opinions face no real world consequences to share what one thinks Apple “needs” or doesn’t need to be successful in the future. Clearly they need to improve certain areas, but the greatest manager of all time, Steve Jobs, deferred his baby to Tim Cook… So I’ll defer to Tim Cook.

    2. Exactly. It’s ridiculous to claim that Apple has no ‘CEO’ potential in its VP bench and that an external hire for retail will be in the succession chain. Tim’s not going anywhere any time soon and when he does, it’s far more likely that Federighi or Shiller ascend to the top job.

      I also genuinely hope that Apple continues to keep its entire organization on message and continues to cut the media out. There’s very little upside and a mountain of downside from opening ranks and letting VP’s and other staff ‘off the leash.’ The siege mentality is very important at Apple and they will continue to operate like the underdog for as long as the company still exists.

  13. I happen to think that Apple is gearing up to open a significantly large second line of business (large enough to justify developing a sub-brand even) on the high fashion-high tech front, where both facets are equally important, not one subordinated to the other. Apple is the only company in the world that has the chops and the brand cachet to do this. Because of their design expertise, they are equally credible in the tech and fashion industries. I’m thinking Swatch kicked two notches upmarket, with product tie-ins with the major fashion houses, such as a smart watch model designed by House Versace. Things like that.

    What makes this particularly attractive for Apple is for once, they are able to go to where Microsoft, Google, Samsung, or anyone else cannot follow them. Nope, those guys reek to much of Eau de Geek.

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