Apple's New 'Mission Statement' Is Making People Worry That The Company Has Gone To Hell


Tim Cook at WWDC

REUTERS / Stephen Lam

Where are we headed, Tim?

A tech-industry insider sent us the note below highlighting what Apple's web site is describing as the company's "mission statement."


The executive's reaction to this mission statement was not positive. He took it as a sign that Apple has changed fundamentally--and for the worse--since Steve Jobs died.

I don't know what Apple's official mission statement was when Steve Jobs was alive - but I'd be shocked if it was this pathetic piece of generic corporate mumbo jumbo drivel. It's almost as if Tim Cook hated Jobs.

The "mission statement" the executive was referring to is the paragraph below, which can be found on Apple's investor relations site and at the bottom of Apple press releases:

What is Apple's mission statement?

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

If that really is Apple's "mission statement," it is indeed pretty lame. It's not a mission statement so much as a list of product lines. And it would be hard to imagine a less-inspiring, more prosaic description of what Apple is (or used to be) all about.

The good news for Apple fans is that this description doesn't post-date Steve Jobs. It actually appeared on Apple press releases before Steve Jobs died. This release from 2010, for example, contains exactly the same description at the bottom. (Though it wasn't labeled a "Mission Statement.")

Going back a bit further, to 2008, Apple included a more Jobs-ian description of itself at the bottom of its releases, one that did invoke more of the magic and inspirational rhetoric that Jobs was about:

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

I don't know whether Apple had a formal "Mission Statement" when Jobs was leading the company (anyone know?), but a couple of old news reports suggest that it did, at least back in the 1980s. And, as you might expect, this reported "Mission Statement" was miles from the prosaic product list above.

According to the Economist, Steve Jobs' mission statement for Apple in 1980 was:

“To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” says another Jobs' quote served as Apple's mission statement in the '80s, though this also doesn't seem like much of a mission statement:

"Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them."

So it's not clear to me yet whether Apple really had a "Mission Statement" in Steve Jobs' last 15 years of running the company. If you know, please tell me.

For what it's worth, I suspect that the "Mission Statement" listed on the IR site is not actually a mission statement. My guess is the paragraph was just added to the FAQ by someone who cut-and-pasted it off a press release (where it is presented as just a description of the company, not a mission statement). That someone who works at Apple apparently thinks this is the company's mission statement is disconcerting, but the news will be far worse if this is actually the current mission statement.

It does seem, however, that Apple could use a clear mission statement these days, especially now that its direction and vision in the post-Jobs era is still unclear.

CEO Tim Cook's keynote speech at Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference in June seemed to hint at a mission statement, when he spoke of Apple's commitment to making "the best" products rather than "the most." That speech, and Apple's recent ad campaigns, have also played up the emotions and passion that Apple wants its products to evoke.

So there would seem to be the makings of a "Mission Statement" in there. Perhaps someday these sentiments will make it into the mission statement that appears on Apple's web site.