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It's been just over two months since the late Steve Jobs handed over the reins of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) to longtime right-hand man Tim Cook. He's run the show numerous times before, but now that his name is officially etched on the CEO plaque, has anything changed?
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on some of the internal changes that have been happening lately with Cook in charge. Jobs never cared for bureaucratic tasks, while Cook doesn't seem to mind tackling them. He also tends to be more open with employees, sending out emails addressed to the "Team."
Jobs had long been criticized for never reinstating Apple's philanthropic programs for charitable giving, after scrapping them in 1997 upon his return to the company. Back then, the rationale was to help get the struggling Mac maker back in the black -- a rationale that stopped holding up long ago, as Apple's fiscal 2011 booked a $25.9 billion net profit. One of Cook's first changes, which took place in early September, was to reinstate the program and match employee donations of up to $10,000 per year made to non-profits, thus ending Jobs' 14-year embargo.
While you can still expect the same characteristic secrecy from the company, Cook is expected to be more open with shareholders and customers. The real test will be whether he continues Jobs' unique practice of personally responding to customer emails.
Many of Apple's supply-chain and operational successes are attributed to Cook. The company is allegedly set to revamp its retail-store operations by heavily leveraging its iOS Apple Online Store app. A new addition will be the ability to order products for in-store pickup and have them ready within 12 minutes. The change is expected to help alleviate foot traffic and reduce shipping costs. In addition, customers may be able to use the app for self checkout using the iPhone's camera. In all likelihood, these changes may also be tied back to Cook.
The WSJ report also mentions that Cook is more open to alternatives with Apple's $81.6 billion pile of cash, notably share buybacks or a (gasp) dividend! Apple dividend talk has always been a hot topic, but I'll take capital appreciation of roughly 4,200% over the past 10 years over a 3% to 5% possible yield any day of the week.
Beyond the dollars, dividends also carry important informational content. Specifically, the initiation of a dividend signals that the growth days are over, which would certainly be bad news for Apple investors. The same thing happened when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) started paying its dividend as it matured, and we all know how that stock has done over the past 10 years.
While Cook has started to make his marks on Cupertino, Apple will always be Apple.