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December 9, 2012

Apple’s softer side emerges under CEO Cook

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

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 in early November that the company 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 famous perk available to Google employees, who get to devote 20 percent of their time to entrepreneurial “hobbies.”

In addition, the company now matches employee donations up to $10,000 a year. Tim 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 lead to the company accumulating a rainy-day fund of 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 territory. 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 ceasefire on one front: It settled all its patent suits against Google partner HTC Corp., a struggling Taiwanese maker of smartphones.

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