Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for being an excellent communicator, and that was on full display this week as he navigated Elon Musk’s flurry of accusations against Apple. A new report from the Financial Times this weekend offers a deeper look at how former Apple executives view Cook’s skills, with the caveat that there’s one issue he hasn’t yet resolved…

The last week has been a whirlwind when it comes to the relationship between Elon Musk and Apple. The new Twitter owner started the week off with a series of rapid-fire tweets accusing Apple and Tim Cook of halting the company’s advertising spend on Twitter, suggesting that they “hate free speech.”

For Apple, it was a PR nightmare of sorts, as Musk encouraged his army of followers to start a “revolution against online censorship in America” and called on Apple to “publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers.”

Musk also said that Apple had “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store” but wouldn’t explain why. Rather than engage publicly, Tim Cook privately invited Musk to Apple Park for a meeting. Musk then took to Twitter to thank Cook for the meeting and tour of Apple Park, adding that everything was a “misunderstanding.”

The Financial Times spoke to a “former Apple veteran of more than 10 years” regarding Cook’s ability to placate someone like Musk:

“I’m sure Tim charmed him,” the person said. “He wanted to hear [Musk] out. And I’m sure Tim gave his perspective. That’s what Tim does: he rolls up his sleeves and fixes problems. He’s not into big public disputes, whether it’s a PR dispute or something more contentious. That’s not his MO. He’s not like Elon.”

Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak added that Cook’s “best skill is just understanding the need to take care of everyone” and “being multidisciplinary and not having a favorite.”

John Sculley, who served as Apple CEO before Steve Jobs returned to the company, elaborated further:

The first trillion dollars came from Jobs and Ive, the next trillion came from what Tim Cook has done. He does it in a quiet way and doesn’t draw attention to himself, but he does a remarkable job. When you hold an iPhone in your hand, the names that come to mind immediately are Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, but the contributions Tim Cook has made are just as relevant.

The China problem

But with all that said, the Financial Times makes note of the biggest crisis Tim Cook has yet to solve – or even publicly comment on. Apple is heavily dependent on China for manufacturing, and as we’ve covered over the recent weeks, its primary “iPhone City” has been rocked by COVID-19 shutdowns and protests.

Apple also made the controversial decision to limit the functionality of AirDrop in China after protesters used the feature to spread materials in opposition to the Chinese government.

A report from the Wall Street Journal says that Apple is pressing ahead with its efforts to diversify its supply chain outside of China. As it does that, however, China will remain an incredibly important market segment for Apple in terms of iPhone sales.

During a visit to Washington DC this week to meet with lawmakers and attend the White House State Dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron, Cook was asked by a reporter “whether he supports Chinese citizens’ right to protest.” He did not respond.

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About the Author

Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

Tips, questions, typos to chance@9to5mac.com