First Look

First Look summarizes new working papers, case studies, and publications produced by Harvard Business School faculty. Readers receive early knowledge of cutting-edge ideas before they enter the mainstream of business practice. For complete details on faculty research, see our Working Papers section.

July 17

Tim Cook and Apple 2.0

Professor David Yoffie has followed Apple's ups and downs for decades, but his annual case on the company's prospects and problems is this year quite different. In short, he asks, what now? With the death of Steve Jobs, can new CEO Tim Cook keep the Mac a top seller, protect the iPhone against competitors such as Google's Android, and continue the dominance of the iPad? Read Apple Inc. in 2012.

Entrepreneurship in violent locations

In an unusual study, Shon Hiatt and Wesley Sine consider how entrepreneurs fare when they work in areas with great social and political instability—namely Colombia from 1997 to 2001. In "Clear and Present Danger: Planning and New Venture Survival amid Political and Civil Violence," to be published in Strategic Management Journal, the researchers find that "political and civil violence decreases firm survival, increases the benefits of incremental (operational) planning, and decreases the benefits of comprehensive (strategic) planning."

Employee-suggestion programs that work

A popular method for gathering employee input is to cast a wide net, gather as many suggestions as possible, then prioritize a small number of them for implementation. Problem is, a lot of employees whose suggestions aren't acted upon are left unhappy by this process. Researchers Anita Tucker and Sara Singer compare this analysis-oriented approach with a more action-oriented scheme that relies less on prioritization and frees up more resources for doing the work. Which is better? Read the working paper Key Drivers of Successful Implementation of an Employee Suggestion-Driven Improvement Program. (Watch for an upcoming article about this research in HBS Working Knowledge.)

 

Publications

Perspectives on the Social Psychology of Creativity

Abstract

Scholars began serious study into the social psychology of creativity about 25 years after the field of creativity research had taken root. Over the past 35 years, examination of social and environmental influences on creativity has become increasingly vigorous, with broad implications for the psychology of human performance, and with applications to education, business, and beyond. In this article, we revisit the origins of the social psychology of creativity, trace its arc, and suggest directions for its future.

Demand and Capacity Management in Air Transportation

Abstract

This paper summarizes research trends and opportunities in the area of managing air transportation demand and capacity. Capacity constraints and resulting congestion and low schedule reliability currently impose large costs on airlines and their passengers. Significant capacity increases that would solve these problems are not expected in the near- or medium-term. The paper outlines first a number of directions for effecting improvement through marginal capacity increases and better management of demand and available capacity. It then describes strategic initiatives airlines and civil aviation authorities might undertake over time horizons of months to years as well as tactical measures that may be adopted on a daily basis in response to dynamic, "real time" developments like poor weather or schedule disruptions. Research challenges in these areas are identified and classified in terms of specifying, allocating, and utilizing capacity. The first two categories reflect challenges faced by infrastructure providers; the last category, challenges faced by airlines.

Building Effective Business Relationships in China

Abstract

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

Read the paper: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/2012-summer/53416/building-effective-business-relationships-in-china/

A Better Way to Tax U.S. Businesses

Abstract

The article argues that U.S. taxation reform should reduce corporate taxes, incorporate an awareness of the global marketplace, and generate revenue-neutral incentives for innovation. According to the article, a reduction in corporate tax rates would be offset by a tax on noncorporate business income and an expansion of taxable income. Topics include tax-avoidance techniques, globalization, repatriation taxes, corporate social responsibility, and U.S. workers. Graphs are included, which compare the U.S. tax rate with other countries.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2012/07/a-better-way-to-tax-us-businesses/ar/1

How Firms Respond to Mandatory Information Disclosure

Abstract

Mandatory information disclosure regulations seek to create institutional pressure to spur performance improvement. By examining how organizational characteristics moderate establishments' responses to a prominent environmental information disclosure program, we provide among the first empirical evidence characterizing heterogeneous responses by those mandated to disclose information. We find particularly rapid improvement among establishments located close to their headquarters and among establishments with proximate siblings, especially when the proximate siblings are in the same industry. Large establishments improve more slowly than small establishments in sparse regions, but both groups improve similarly in dense regions, suggesting that density mitigates the power of large establishments to resist institutional pressures. Finally, privately held firms' establishments outperform those owned by public firms. We highlight implications for institutional theory, managers, and policymakers.

What Good Are Shareholders?

Abstract

The article looks at the role outside shareholders play in corporate governance in the U.S., and the relationship between companies' shareholders and managers, as of 2012. It recounts the shift beginning in the 1970s toward shareholders claiming an increasing amount of power relative to corporate managers. The authors argue that shareholders have not benefited much from the trend. They suggest that shareholders as a category are not well positioned to guide corporate decisions or to discipline management. They also discuss problems in two other roles shareholders play with respect to corporations, as a source of funds and as aggregators of information about corporations by way of their decisions to buy or sell stock.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2012/07/what-good-are-shareholders/ar/1

Clear and Present Danger: Planning and New Venture Survival amid Political and Civil Violence

Abstract

Although entrepreneurs constitute a key economic driving force for many countries, they often face unstable environments due to violence and civil unrest. Yet, we know very little about how environments characterized by high levels of political and civil violence affect new venture processes and survival. Moreover, it is unclear whether standard theories about organizational strategy, such as planning, hold true in such environments. We explore these issues using a sample of 730 new ventures in Colombia from 1997 to 2001. We find that political and civil violence decreases firm survival, increases the benefits of incremental (operational) planning, and decreases the benefits of comprehensive (strategic) planning.

The Growth Opportunity That Lies Next Door

Abstract

This article uses the case of Natura, the largest Brazilian beauty company and one of the world's top twenty beauty companies, to explore how the logic of globalization is changing for corporations from emerging countries as growth opportunities in those countries outpace those in developed markets. For 30 years Natura attempted to move, with mixed results, into developed markets even as the opportunities of its region have grown stronger and stronger. Ultimately Natura has moved beyond stereotypes of globalization, recognizing that winning in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico can be an entry onto the world stage every bit as effective as conquering Paris or New York.

Read the article: http://hbr.org/2012/07/the-growth-opportunity-that-lies-next-door/ar/

 

Working Papers

Selection, Reallocation, and Spillover: Identifying the Sources of Gains from Multinational Production

Abstract

Quantifying the gains from multinational production has been a vital topic of economic research. Positive productivity gains are often attributed to knowledge spillover from multinational to domestic firms. An alternative, less stressed explanation is firm selection whereby competition from multinationals leads to market reallocation and survival of only the most productive domestic firms. We develop a model that incorporates both aspects and identify their relative importance in the gains from multinational production by exploring their distinct predictions on domestic productivity and revenue distributions. We show that knowledge spillover shifts both distributions rightward while selection and reallocation raise the left truncation of the distributions and shift revenue leftward. Using a rich firm-level panel dataset that spans 60 countries, our structural estimates suggest firm selection and market reallocation constitute an important source of productivity gains while its relative importance varies across nations. Ignoring the role of this source can lead to significant bias in understanding the nature of gains. We also perform counterfactual analysis and quantify both the aggregate and the decomposed welfare effects of multinational production.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-111.pdf

Do Prices Determine Vertical Integration? Evidence from Trade Policy

Abstract

This paper shows that product prices determine organizational design by studying how trade policy affects vertical integration. Property rights theory asserts that firm boundaries are chosen by stakeholders to mediate organizational goals (e.g., profits) and private benefits (e.g., operating in preferred ways). We present an incomplete-contracts model in which vertical integration raises output at the expense of lower private benefits. A key implication is that higher prices should result in more integration, since the organizational goal becomes relatively more valuable than private benefits. Trade policy provides a source of exogenous price variation to test this proposition: higher tariffs should lead to more vertical integration; moreover, ownership structures should be more alike across countries with similar levels of protection. To assess the evidence, we construct firm-level indices of vertical integration for a large set of countries and industries and exploit cross-section and time-series variation in import tariffs to examine the impact of prices on organizational choices. Our empirical results provide strong support for the predictions of the model.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/10-060.pdf

Investment Incentives in Proprietary and Open-Source Two-Sided Platforms

Abstract

We study incentives to invest in platform quality in proprietary and open-source platforms. A comparison of monopoly platforms reveals that for a given level of user and developer adoption, investment incentives are stronger in proprietary platforms. However, open platforms may receive larger investment because they may benefit from wider adoption, which raises the returns to quality investment. We also study a mixed duopoly model of competition and examine how the price structure and investment incentives of the proprietary platform are affected by quality investments in the open platform. We find that access prices may increase or decrease as a result of investment in the open platform, and the sign of the change may be different for user and developer access prices. We also find that the proprietary platform may benefit from higher investment in the open platform when developers multi-home. This result helps explain why a proprietary platform such as Microsoft has chosen to contribute to the development of Linux.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-114.pdf

Who Lives in the C-Suite? Organizational Structure and the Division of Labor in Top Management

Abstract

This paper shows that top management structures in large U.S. firms have changed significantly since the mid-1980s. While the size of the executive team-the group of managers reporting directly to the CEO-doubled during this period, this growth was driven primarily by an increase in functional managers rather than general managers. Using panel data on senior management positions, we explore the relationship between changes in the structure of the executive team, firm diversification, and IT investments-which arguably alter returns to exploiting synergies through corporate-wide coordination by functional managers in headquarters. We find that the number of functional managers closer to the product ("product" functions i.e., marketing, R&D) increases as firms become less diversified, while the number of functional managers farther from the product ("administrative" functions i.e., finance, law, HR) increases with IT investments. Finally, we show that general manager pay decreases as functional managers join the executive team suggesting a shift in activities from general to functional managers-a phenomenon we term "functional centralization."

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-059.pdf

Accounting, Risk Management and the Selection of Interactive Controls: Which, When, and Why?

Abstract

Taking a multiple-control perspective, I investigate a control debacle and its aftermath at a financial services company (MultiBank), focusing on an insurance division (EurInsurance) that suffered large losses in the European insurance crisis of 2002-2003. The study tracks the promotion and use of a set of accounting and risk controls put in place to control the troubled insurance division and discusses how and why particular management control systems shift in and out of top managerial focus. The study investigates Simons' (1990, 1991) argument that it is top management's view of a firm's key strategic uncertainties that motivates their choice of control systems to be used interactively. Combining the process perspective of a longitudinal field study with the institutional logics perspective, I argue that top management's control choice is motivated by both the logic of functionalism (relevance) and the logic of appropriateness (legitimacy) of particular controls-and that both of these are socially constructed by proponents. First, behind the various control systems there are active controller groups who, in competition for executive level visibility, further their solutions for organizational control problems and engage in 'credentializing' (Power, 1992) to support their claims. At MultiBank, accountants drew on the institutional logic of accounting as a legalistic, rules-based practice, while risk controllers relied on the cultural authority of financial economics and the "full fair value" logic. Second, top management's interactive use of a particular control system sends a signal to external stakeholders about the firm's internal control style and management priorities. Therefore, the control choice is motivated both by the relevance and the institutional appropriateness of particular controls. As external requirements change and the definition of institutional appropriateness shifts, different organizational control groups get the opportunity to become implicated in interactive control and agenda setting. In the special case of mutually incompatible control systems, when top managers must trade off relevance for appropriateness (or the other way round), their choice of interactive control will be driven by what they perceive to be the stronger requirement. At MultiBank, institutional appropriateness was the stronger requirement; the lack of it prevented an otherwise informationally relevant risk control system from prevailing as an interactive control system.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-115.pdf

A Randomized Field Study of a Leadership WalkRoundsTM—Based Intervention

Abstract

Background: Leadership WalkRounds™ have been widely adopted as a technique for improving patient safety and safety climate. WalkRounds™ involve senior managers directly observing frontline work and soliciting employees' ideas about improvement opportunities. However, the hypothesized link between WalkRounds™-based programs and performance has not been rigorously examined in a set of randomly selected hospitals. Objective: To fill this research gap, we conducted a randomized field study of a WalkRounds™-based program. Research Design: Fifty-six work areas from 19 randomly selected hospitals agreed to implement an 18-month long WalkRounds™-based program to improve safety. We compared their results to 138 work areas in 48 randomly selected control hospitals. Participants: We conducted the program in four types of clinical work areas: operating rooms/post-anesthesia care units, emergency departments, intensive care units, and medical/surgical units. We collected survey data from nurses in those work areas. Measures: To measure the program's impact, we collected pre- and post-survey data on perceptions of improvement in performance (PIP)-a proxy for quality and an important organizational climate antecedent for positive, discretionary behaviors of frontline staff. We compare change in PIP in the treatment work areas to the same type of work areas in control hospitals.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-113.pdf

Key Drivers of Successful Implementation of an Employee Suggestion-Driven Improvement Program

Abstract

Service organizations frequently implement improvement programs to increase quality. These programs often rely on employees' suggestions about improvement opportunities. Organizations face a trade-off with such suggestion-driven improvement programs. On one hand, the improvement literature recommends that managers focus organizational resources on surfacing a large number of problems, prioritizing these, and selecting a small set of high priority ones for solution efforts. The theory is that soliciting a large number of ideas from employees will surface a set of higher priority problems than would have been identified with a less extensive search. Scarce organizational resources can be allocated to resolving the set of problems that provide the greatest improvement in performance. We call this an "analysis-oriented" approach. On the other hand, managers can allocate improvement resources to addressing problems raised by frontline staff, regardless of priority ranking. This "action-oriented" approach enables more resources to be spent on resolving problems because prioritization receives less attention. To our knowledge, this tradeoff between analysis and action in process improvement programs has not been empirically examined. To fill this gap, we randomly selected 20 hospitals to implement an 18-month long employee suggestion-driven improvement program-58 work areas participated. Our study finds that an action-oriented approach was associated with higher perceived improvement in performance, while an analysis-oriented approach was not. Our study suggests that the analysis-oriented approach negatively impacted employees' perceptions of improvement because it solicited, but did not act on, employees' ideas. We discuss the conditions under which this might be the case.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-112.pdf

 

Cases & Course Materials

Self-Monitoring

Julie Battilana and Andras Tilcsik
Harvard Business School Note 412-114

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

Purchase this note:
http://hbr.org/search/412114-PDF-ENG

Becton Dickinson: Opportunities and Challenges on the Road to the 'Envisioned Future'

Michael Beer and Russell A. Eisenstat
Harvard Business School Case 912-408

The case depicts a mission and values driven firm, how it was turned around, and its unique strategy of enabling others to succeed.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/912408-PDF-ENG

The Agnellis and Fiat: Family Business Governance in a Crisis (A)

John A. Davis, Bernardo Bertoldi, and Roberto Quaglia
Harvard Business School Case 812-128

After the death of Umberto Agnelli in 2004, the Agnelli family, led by John Elkann, needs to decide whether to keep Fiat CEO Giuseppe Morchio. The Fiat Group is in a delicate financial position, and John Elkann, the new family leader, is untested in this role. The stakes of this decision are high for both the family and the family business. The case describes the leadership and governance of the Fiat Group and raises questions on who should be involved in such decisions.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/812128-PDF-ENG

Chapman International Inc.

David F. Hawkins
Harvard Business School Case 112-098

Management must make some accounting policy decisions to reach first-quarter earnings consensus.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/112098-PDF-ENG

Edward Lundberg and the Rockville Building: Energy Efficiency Finance in Commercial Real Estate

John D. Macomber and Frederik Nellemann
Harvard Business School Case 212-067

A commercial landlord analyzes options for funding and accomplishing energy efficiency retrofit. The situation is complicated by lease terms and uncertain effectiveness of the intervention. Students must grapple with obstacles including changing energy prices, variations in energy needed in different climate scenarios, issues in net and gross lease responsibilities, and issues in finding adequate cash flow and security to satisfy a range of possible third-party funders. The business opportunity for third-party funders is also discussed.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/212067-PDF-ENG

Social Strategy at Harvard Business Review

Mikołaj Jan Piskorski and David Chen
Harvard Business School Case 712-481

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) Group was an early adopter of social media, boasting a robust presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Now the company is seeking to evolve the Group's efforts from social media to social strategy-and start moving both revenue generation and strategy integration into HBR's core. To that end the company created two parallel projects, each tasked with developing two concrete new offerings that leveraged social dynamics on social platforms, while at the same time creating revenues or slashing costs for HBR. Now it has to choose between four different projects.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/712481-PDF-ENG

Wikipedia: Project Esperanza

Mikołaj Jan Piskorski, Andreea Gorbatai, and Tiona Zuzul
Harvard Business School Case 712-493

In October 2006, Wikipedia was the largest volunteer-run online encyclopedia, which could be freely read and edited by anyone with Internet access. Within almost six years of its founding in 2001, the project had attracted hundreds of thousands of editors who had written over 1.2 million articles in English alone. Almost 10% of world-wide Internet users accessed Wikipedia at least once a month. Just as Wales was stepping down, the editor community was collecting opinions to decide whether to close down an informal association of Wikipedia editors called Esperanza. Some Wikipedia editors, including some of the most prolific ones, really enjoyed the programs. Others firmly believed that Esperanza made editors socialize at the expense of creating content for the encyclopedia. As the editor community was making the final decision on what to do with Esperanza, observers could not help but wonder what effect the decision will have on the types of editors Wikipedia will attract and the content they will produce.

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http://hbr.org/search/712493-PDF-ENG

Merck: Investing in Science-Based Business (Abridged)

Ananth Raman and Inga Maurer
Harvard Business School Case 611-027

Ray Gilmartin faces a dilemma. His company's credibility has been damaged by the recent withdrawal of Vioxx, a multi-billion dollar drug. Moreover, the withdrawal of Vioxx would imply that Merck would fail to meet analysts' earnings expectations for 2005 unless Gilmartin cuts the R&D budget. Cutting the budget might hurt morale and productivity in Merck labs.

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/611027-PDF-ENG

Merck: Operating Science-Based Business

Ananth Raman, Inga Maurer, and William Schmidt
Harvard Business School Case 612-082

Merck is known for its commitment to investing in basic R&D. Are Merck's long-term investments justifiable when the firm faces extreme earnings pressure?

Purchase this case:
http://hbr.org/search/612082-PDF-ENG

Negotiating the Path of Abraham

James K. Sebenius and Kimberlyn Leary
Harvard Business School Case 912-017

The Abraham Path Initiative board faces strategic and negotiating challenges in revitalizing a route of Middle East cultural tourism following Abraham's path 4000 years ago. The Path begins in the ancient ruins of Harran, in modern-day Turkey, where Abraham first heard the call to "go forth." It passes through some of the world's most revered cultural, historical, and holy sites, ending in the city of Hebron/AI-Khalil at the tomb of Abraham. With Abraham as a venerated patriarchal figure for Islam, Judaism, and Christianity-monotheistic religions whose adherents have so often clashed-the potential unifying power of this conception has attracted a remarkable range of supporters from around the world as well as considerable media interest. From a notion crystallized at Harvard in 2004, this idea has been carefully negotiated into a concrete reality with supporting country organizations in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel. With the endorsement of the U.N.'s Alliance of Civilizations, over 300 kilometers of the Path have now been opened to a growing number of travelers ranging from student study groups to international leaders, all walking stretches of the Path. Yet, momentum has stalled in key areas, strategic and operational issues remain unresolved, and the financial future of the initiative is clouded. Soon the board will meet to debate and decide these issues.

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http://hbr.org/search/912017-PDF-ENG

First Quantum Minerals vs. Eurasian Natural Resources

George Serafeim and Andrew Knauer
Harvard Business School Case 112-083

The case describes the battle between First Quantum Mineral (FQM) and Eurasian Resources over mines in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After FQM's license to operate was revoked by the government of the DRC, Eurasian bought the rights over the mines that were previously under FQM's control raising questions about the effectiveness of corporate governance at Eurasian.

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http://hbr.org/search/112083-PDF-ENG

Renesas Electronics and the Automotive Microcontroller Supply Chain (A)

Willy Shih and Margaret Pierson
Harvard Business School Case 612-071

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 caused extensive damage to Renesas Electronics wafer fabrication facility, a critical link in the global automotive supply chain. Many OEMs sole-sourced customized microprocessors from the fab, so its shutdown forced the "Big Three" of Detroit and Japan to shut down production as well. Data from two automotive customers in particular, allowing the instructor to look at issues of delayed differentiation, sole-sourcing decisions, and/or Renesas' market position as a producer of low-volume customized components, in the context of supply chain disaster recovery. The two OEM's had different strategies with respect to cross-utilization of components between product lines. Therefore, a simple numerical assignment will show students the power of delayed differentiation in components. The OEM with higher cross-utilization (lower customization of components between product lines) had more flexibility in which vehicles they stopped producing during the shortage. Similarly, students can look at the impact of delayed differentiation at the product level by looking at the production process within the fab itself. Here Renesas's customization causes early differentiation. Again numbers are provided to work examples. Finally, broader questions around the viability of Renesas's market position can be discussed. How should they respond to the disaster in the short-term? How can they assure customers they can handle future disruptions differently? And from the OEMs' perspective, do they need to change their product design to allow for the incorporation of alternative parts? Such parts have downsides of their own. The findings in the two numerical examples can be used to drive this discussion, or a general strategy framework may be applied.

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http://hbr.org/search/612071-PDF-ENG

Managing the Layoff Process: France

Sandra J. Sucher
Harvard Business School Note 612-083

This note is an overview of the context for managing layoffs in France. It describes the legal responsibilities of managers in conducting layoffs, recent unemployment trends, and the financial, health, training, job placement, and other benefits that laid-off employees can expect to receive.

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http://hbr.org/search/612083-PDF-ENG

Managing the Layoff Process: India

Sandra J. Sucher
Harvard Business School Note 612-068

This note is an overview of the context for managing layoffs in India. It describes the legal responsibilities of managers in conducting layoffs, recent unemployment trends, and the financial, health, training, job placement, and other benefits that laid-off employees can expect to receive.

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http://hbr.org/search/612068-PDF-ENG

Managing the Layoff Process: The United States

Sandra J. Sucher
Harvard Business School Note 612-067

This note is an overview of the context for managing layoffs in the United States. It describes the legal responsibilities of managers in conducting layoffs, recent unemployment trends, and the financial, health, training, job placement, and other benefits that laid-off employees can expect to receive.

Purchase this note:
http://hbr.org/search/612067-PDF-ENG

Quietly Brilliant: Transformational Change at HTC

Michael L. Tushman and Kerry Herman
Harvard Business School Case 412-070

The case examines smartphone maker HTC's 2006 decision to become a branded company. The case focuses on the cultural and organizational shifts HTC underwent to successfully make the transition from an ODM, founded in 1997, to a leading branded manufacturer (7% market share of smartphones in 2010), with the adoption of the tagline: "Quietly Brilliant." Significant challenges considered in the case include: transitioning HTC from a Taiwanese to a global firm, developing and maintaining a functioning global structure, building a sales and marketing force, and finding the right cultural balance between eastern and western capabilities.

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http://hbr.org/search/412070-PDF-ENG

Apple Inc. in 2012

David B. Yoffie and Penelope Rossano
Harvard Business School Case 712-490

On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs tragically died of cancer. The recently retired CEO of Apple Inc. was a legend: he had changed Apple from a company near bankruptcy to one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. Moreover, he had revolutionized several industries in the process, including music, phones, and computer tablets. This case explores Steve Jobs' successes and the challenges facing his successor, Tim Cook. Could Cook continue to revitalize the Macintosh? With iPod sales declining for four straight years, would Cook be able to continue the iPhone's dominance of smartphones in the face of growing competition from companies such as Google and Samsung? Would Apple's newest creation, the iPad, continue to dominate the tablet market, or would new competitors, ranging from Amazon to Samsung, steal share and drive down profits? And could Apple thrive with Tim Cook rather than Steve Jobs at the helm?

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http://hbr.org/search/712490-PDF-ENG