When it comes to Silicon Valley dominance, there's no larger competitors than Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL). Part of that is, well, because they are big -- Apple is the largest U.S. company by market cap, boasting a $730 billion valuation while Google competes with non-Valley resident Microsoft for the title of second-largest tech company with only a few billion dollars of market cap currently separating the two.
In direct comparisons, the conversation tends to center on the competition between Google's open-source Android operating system versus Apple's closed iOS. And while the competition is interesting, it can be somewhat misleading considering these two companies have different business models in regards to mobile monetization. The comparison is perhaps more important to Apple as its closed-system iOS growth is tied to increased sales of high-margin hardware. Google, on the other hand, is more worried about data and search revenue for shareholder returns.
In the long run, however, most technology companies are in a competition -- it's just one of innovation and continuous improvement. In order to win this never-ending battle, it requires both strong leadership and motivated, empowered employees. And that's why it's interesting to note career website Glassdoor's recently released 50 highest rated CEOs ranking -- Google's CEO Larry Page edged out Apple's Tim Cook.
Near-unanimous approval ratings
For Larry Page, you have to be happy with this result. Overall, Google's chief executive achieved an approval rating on par with Mother Theresa and Mahatma Gandhi with 97% of employees approving of his leadership. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google also tops Glassdoor's list of the 50 best places to work -- for the fourth straight year, no less. Page narrowly edges out Nike's CEO Mark Parker, according to Glassdoor's rankings, which also attained a 97% approval rating.
To be fair, it isn't as if Apple is a rudderless ship under Tim Cook. Overall, Apple's CEO comes in No. 10 on the most approved CEOs list, boasting a 94% approval rating -- a great result, even among technology giants. Matter of fact, Cook boasts the third-highest approval rating of all technology CEOs, trailing the aforementioned Page and No. 4, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and his 95% approval rating. Overall, these three CEOs appear to have employee buy-in, and that's important for long-term success.
Although Larry Page wins, could Tim Cook's results be more impressive
Headline numbers aside, it's entirely possible that Tim Cook's rating is actually more impressive than Larry Page's or Mark Zuckerberg's. First, it's important to consider the size of the workforce as larger workforces have the potential to become disconnected and dispirited. Simply put, it's harder to keep 1 million people happy than it is 100.
And when it comes to total labor force, Apple dominates on headcount by reporting 92,600 full-time equivalents (presumably more actual workers) as of its last annual report. Contrast that to Facebook which reported 10,082 employees as of its last quarterly report while Google's last employee count totaled 53,600 employees. At that scale, Cook's approval rating is impressive.
In addition, you also have to consider the composition of Apple's workforce. Unlike Google or Facebook, Apple has a considerable retail presence with the company reporting 46,200 employees working for its retail segment -- four times Facebook's total workforce and nearly 90% of Google's. Typically, retail employees are harder to motivate as pay, working schedules, and perks are less generous than highly skilled technology workers. Additionally, Cook has to combat a decentralized working environment that removes retail employees from headquarter's perks and culture.
In the end, however, a few percentage points one way or the other is probably not that important -- the fact the CEOs are well liked should translate to motivated employees, and that can't hurt for long-term investors.