FORTUNE -- Yukari Iwatani Kane has written what is likely to be the most talked-about Apple (AAPL) book of the year.
Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs is scheduled to land on March 18, but the Wall Street Journal, which tied up first serial rights for everything including the Author's Note, began dishing it out on Saturday.
The first chunk, timed to cap off an extraordinarily high-profile week for Apple's low-profile CEO, is a close look at Tim Cook: who he is, where he came from, and how tough a hand he was dealt when he was tapped by Steve Jobs to succeed him.
Daring Fireball's John Gruber found the excerpt "pretty much empty," but that doesn't do justice to Kane's reporting, which takes us deeper into Apple's inner circles than we've been since Jobs died.
On the other hand, I'm not sure Kane's portrait of Cook, based on unnamed sources who all seem to be terrified of him, does him justice. From the far end of the conference table, Cook comes across as part robot and part Attila the Hun:
To some, Cook was a machine; to others, he was riveting. He could strike terror in the hearts of his subordinates, but he could also motivate them to toil from dawn to midnight for just a word of praise...
Meetings with Cook could be terrifying. He exuded a Zenlike calm and didn't waste words. "Talk about your numbers. Put your spreadsheet up," he'd say as he nursed a Mountain Dew. (Some staffers wondered why he wasn't bouncing off the walls from the caffeine.) When Cook turned the spotlight on someone, he hammered them with questions until he was satisfied. "Why is that?" "What do you mean?" "I don't understand. Why are you not making it clear?" He was known to ask the same exact question 10 times in a row.
Cook also knew the power of silence. He could do more with a pause than Jobs ever could with an epithet. When someone was unable to answer a question, Cook would sit without a word while people stared at the table and shifted in their seats. The silence would be so intense and uncomfortable that everyone in the room wanted to back away. Unperturbed, Cook didn't move a finger as he focused his eyes on his squirming target. Sometimes he would take an energy bar from his pocket while he waited for an answer, and the hush would be broken only by the crackling of the wrapper.
Even in Apple's unrelenting culture, Cook's meetings stood out as harsh. On one occasion, a manager from another group who was sitting in was shocked to hear Cook tell an underling, "That number is wrong. Get out of here."
She is not optimistic about Apple's future, as her piece in the New Yorker makes clear.
FORTUNE -- During her five and a half years at the Wall Street Journal Yukari Iwatani Kane published so many Apple (AAPL) scoops -- like the 2009 story about Steve Jobs secret liver transplant -- that NPR's On the Media suggested she might be a conduit for friendly leaks from inside the company.
Friendly is the last word MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 5, 2014 8:07 AM ET
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