When word broke that Apple was rumored to be acquiring Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion, analysts everywhere weighed in with their thoughts and predictions. Amidst the speculation about why Apple is interested in Beats, there has been comparatively little discussion about what the move says about Apple now, as compared with the Apple of the Steve Jobs era. In a new statement to the press, Apple insider Michael Hageloh shares his reflections on what a Beats acquisition might say about the tech giant’s current company culture.
“It is remarkable to chart the trajectory that Apple has taken over the past several years, and the transitions it has gone through since the Steve Jobs era,” says Hageloh, who was with Apple for 22 years. “There was a time when Apple was known for creating its own brand of cool; most of us remember how hip and cutting edge the iPod was in its prime, what with the multi-colored ads, the U2 cameos, and so forth. Apple may still be cool to an extent, but rather than manufacture its own cool it’s essentially buying into Beats’ cool—a marked change in the company’s ethos.”
Hageloh says that there are several further implications of the Apple/Beats acquisition. “On one level, it’s a simple matter of Apple’s finance guys seeing this as a repatriation of profits,” he assesses. “It’s also worth noting that this would give Apple a direct, formal pathway to Jimmy Iovine and other bigwigs from the music industry. But most significantly, I think, this acquisition shows us that brands still matter—and the Beats brand has a level of hipness that Apple must want pretty badly.”
Ultimately, Hageloh says, this latest move by Apple signals a fundamental shift in perspective from the Steve Jobs era to the Tim Cook era. “I worked with both men and admire them both greatly, for different reasons,” Hageloh remarks. “Jobs, on the one hand, was a master salesman, and could guide any conversation back toward Apple’s cutting edge. Cook, on the other hand, is a masterful operations guy. He’s surely collected a lot of sales data and drawn inferences—and while that’s not unimportant, it’s also not the same as what Steve Jobs did, which was to focus on providing consumers with something valuable and fresh.”
Hageloh summarizes: “Under Steve Jobs, Apple sold us on its own brand of cool. Under Tim Cook, it’s buying its way into our minds, specifically using the brand recognition of Beats.”
Michael Hageloh’s full take on the Beats acquisition, and what it illustrates about Apple’s current culture, can be found at his blog.
Serving as director of special projects focused on the sales education initiative at the University of South Florida, Michael Hageloh is a proven sales executive with more than 20 years of experience.
Much of that experience is with Apple Inc., where he began in the company’s education division in 1988. Hageloh moved into a crucial role within Apple’s sales organization. In that role, he developed a vertical education selling strategy and forged relationships with thought leaders, policymakers, and other influencers in the education and technology spheres. He also acquired experience in a key academic sales role at Adobe, where he facilitated, along with French banking and financial services firm Société Générale, a unique single licensing transaction valued at $11.7 million. Overall, Hageloh delivered close to a billion dollars in revenue during the course of his career.