Apple is not going to like this new book about Apple.
The title -- "Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs" -- pretty much says it all. While author Yukari Iwatani Kane does say on page 336 of her 338-page book that "it's not too late for Apple to dazzle the world again," by that point she's made her conclusion clear -- Apple's long slide began the day Jobs died.
"Without him," the former Wall Street Journal reporter wrote in her book, which hit stores Tuesday, "everything changed. The dilemmas multiply and deepen. Solutions slip further out of reach."
Kane is certainly not the first to predict the decline of the Cupertino tech giant. And she fails to drop any bombshells, other than a quote from Jobs calling television "a terrible business," suggesting an Apple TV may not be in the company's future after all. Instead, Kane serves up anecdotes from other books and press accounts, along with some original reporting.
Yet the author makes a cogent case that with the loss of Jobs' mercurial genius, the lingering legal battles and patent wars, and the thickening competition from tech companies on all sides, the innovative powerhouse that Jobs created may be slowly fading in his absence.
Neither Kane's publisher, HarperCollins, nor Apple responded to interview requests, although CEO Tim Cook did release a statement saying "this nonsense belongs with some of the other books I've read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve or anyone else in the company," adding that he feels "very confident about our future."
The book, which Kane says was crafted from interviews "with nearly 200 sources," including "past and present" Apple employees, lays much of the blame for Apple's woes at Cook's feet.
"Was Cook the best choice to chart Apple's future?" Kane asks midway through her tale. She obviously feels he was not, although she doesn't suggest a suitable alternative, implying that anyone running Apple in Jobs' wake would have been doomed to fail. "Forgetting him was like trying to forget the sun," she writes. "He still reigned over every hour of every day. That was his blessing, and their curse."
Starting with a brief history of Jobs at the helm, including his resentful tirade against his appointed successor when he felt Cook was getting too big for his britches, Kane quickly moves on to the post-Jobs era. She focuses on the challenges Apple has faced since Jobs' death and portrays Cook, despite his prowess at supply-side management, as stumbling from one pickle to the next.
"Cook was a seasoned businessman and arguably a better manager than Jobs," Kane writes. "He was organized, prepared, and was more realistic about the burdens of a company of Apple's current size. Many even considered him a genius in his own right. But no one could beat Jobs at being Steve Jobs, especially Cook, who was his polar opposite."
While Kane' book was praised by Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson for her "great insight and unparalleled reporting," other observers complained that the book did little to shine light on what's truly going on behind the Apple curtain.
"I thought there was very little that was new in the book," says Cult of Mac blog publisher Leander Kahney, author of "Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Products." "It's basically a rehash of public events over the past few years and I don't think there's anything new to learn here. The book does fill in some of Cook's biography, and she talks to some of his former school teachers, but there's nothing really revealing."
Kahney, who said Isaacson's book also failed to truly pierce Apple's infamous wall of secrecy, noted that he was hard-pressed to find a single quote from a named current Apple employee, calling the book "one more failed attempt to really shed any light on Apple."
Regardless of whether the unnamed sources Kane cites possess an accurate view of how things stand today behind Apple's walls, she seems convinced that a Jobs-less Apple is an Apple hopelessly adrift.
"Apple used to be exceptional," Kane writes. "Not necessarily in its behavior, which was often predatory. But certainly in its ability to inspire. Those days are waning."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc