Is Apple’s $99 million man really worth all those zeroes?
Welcome to our weekly collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Too many: Cook’s millions
Exciting reports this week of what the Guardian is calling a “shareholder revolt” at Apple. That phrase immediately evokes images of something like the Battle of Toad Hall, with executives brandishing cutlasses and somebody swinging off a chandelier. The reality is a firmly worded letter, but in its own way, this is equally explosive.
The cause for concern is the pay packet awarded to CEO Tim Cook last year, which started with a hefty base salary of $3 million and just kept on getting bigger. Chuck in stock awards, bonuses, and various other perks and contributions, and you end up with the ludicrous figure of $98.7 million, a magnitude bigger than the $14.8 million Cook took home the year before. An advisory group has urged shareholders to vote against the payday, citing “significant concerns regarding the design and magnitude of the equity award.”
There are two ways to look at this. The first is to ask whether Cook is worth that to Apple, in the stark sense of money in and money out. Does the CEO pay his way? Only the company’s own accountants could adequately answer that, but Apple not being a charity it’s reasonable to suppose that it wouldn’t pay out the money if he didn’t. And the upward curve of performance since he took over has been so astounding that we have even dared to argue that Cook is a better CEO than Steve Jobs–in some senses at least.
That’s probably the basis on which most shareholders will make their decision. They will ask themselves one question: if we deny Cook his pay package, is that likely to raise or lower the value of our investment? Cook won’t be at the company forever, but based on the financial success Apple has enjoyed on his watch, my guess is that shareholders would like to put off his frequently (and perhaps strategically) mentioned retirement as long as possible.
But here’s another way of looking at the numbers. In December, the Verge published a devastating report into working conditions on Apple’s front lines, alleging stress, ignored complaints, low pay, and management by algorithm. As one former employee interviewed by the site put it, “They say our soul is our people but it really didn’t feel like that to me.”
According to Bloomberg, Apple is responding to the general discontent by raising salaries for salespeople and Genius Bar technicians from 2 percent to 10 percent depending on longevity and location, but that’s a small token compared to a $99 million payday. It’s also not enough to stop employees from working to unionize over “wages that have stagnated below the rate of inflation.”
Apple is the richest company in history civilization. But enough of those riches do not seem to have found their way into the pockets of the people who are crucial to its success. The Guardian observes that Tim Cook’s pay in 2021 was 1,447 times that of the average Apple employee. And maybe he’s worth it. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.
Trending: Top stories of the week
There are some Apple products you just shouldn’t buy right now. (We also explain which ones you should buy instead.)
Apple’s worst-case App Store scenario is being forced to allow sideloading. But it might be the best thing for the iPhone, writes Jason Snell.
AirTags security may be better than its competitors but it’s still not good enough, writes the Macalope. (As we observed last week, it feels like the AirTag might be able to beat theft or stalking, but not both.)
The rumor mill
Two desktop Macs and a MacBook will be launching soon, based on clues provided by a database filing. But an analyst says the iMac Pro won’t be among them.
The Touch Bar may live to see another day in a refreshed MacBook Pro.
Apple’s take on virtual reality is getting ever closer. Knowledgeable Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman reckons Memojis and SharePlay will play a central role in FaceTime when used in Apple’s rumored mixed-reality headsets.
Apple’s VP of Acoustics has explained how 6GHz Bluetooth could transform the AirPods Pro 2.
The iPhone 14 Pro may have as much RAM as high-end Android phones.
Software, bugs & other issues
Owners of older Macs keep getting the macOS Monterey update notification, then when they click on it, they’re told they can’t have it! Pretty annoying.