New Apple CEO Tim Cook: Who Is This Guy?
The Apple CEO crown shifted today from empire builder Steve Jobs to business-operations maestro Tim Cook. But who exactly is Tim Cook, and what are his credentials to run Apple — which has rivaled Exxon as America’s most valuable company in recent weeks?
First: A disclosure — The VAR Guy owns a few Apple shares. And he knows Apple stock will is bound to dip noticeably — or plummet dramatically — when US markets open on Aug. 25.
Still, The VAR Guy will be holding tight to his Apple shares. After all:
- Jobs is now chairman of Apple.
- Cook is no slouch.
- Apple’s product lineup remains stellar, and iCloud and iPhone 5 are just around the corner.
But back to the question at hand: Who is Tim Cook? A clear picture of Cook emerged in 2008, when Fortune positioned Cook as the most likely long-term successor to Jobs. The Fortune article called Cook Apple’s “operations whiz” and “business operations maestro.”
The 2008 Fortune article included this dramatic quote:
“Come on, replace Steve? No. He’s irreplaceable,” Cook said recently, according to a person who knows him well. “That’s something people have to get over. I see Steve there with gray hair in his 70s, long after I’m retired.”
Fast forward to the present, and Jobs’ resignation letter stated that he can “no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO,” triggering Apple’s succession plan and shifting Cook into the CEO slot. Plenty of pundits will speculate about Jobs’ health and his battle against cancer. But The VAR Guy has no hard facts to share in that area. So let’s respect Jobs’ personal privacy and shift the conversation over to Tim Cook.
So who is Cook? Among the anecdotes about Cook from the Fortune article:
- Cook arrived at Apple in 1998 from Compaq Computer.
- He cleaned up Apple’s manufacturing, distribution, and supply apparatus — sometimes dispatching executives to far-off lands to clean up problems at a moment’s notice.
- Cook pulled Apple out of manufacturing and shifted to contract manufacturers to strengthen Apple’s balance sheet — making Apple’s supply chain essentially as efficient as Dell’s.
- Cook’s supply chain expertise has allowed the iPhone, iPod and other device launches to proceed mostly without a hitch. (The Fortune article was written before the iPad launch… though the iPad supply chain has also been efficient.)
- Cook’s supply chain management has allowed Apple to deliver a rare one-two combo: charging high prices while reducing costs.
So far, so good. But does Cook have Jobs’ knack for (A) creating markets and (B) great design instincts that blend hardware and software into a seamless user experience? Hmmm… The short answer: Nobody has Jobs’ talents.
But don’t sell Cook short. In addition to his manufacturing prowess, Cook has overseen Apple’s sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also heads Apple’s Macintosh division.
Sure, Jobs can by tyrannical about product design and launch details. But can Cook match that intensity?
Steve Jobs’ DNA Is Embedded In Apple
Hmmm… Perhaps there’s another way to look at that question: Can Apple remain highly focused and highly competitive without Jobs calling the day-to-day shots? At least for the next few years, The VAR Guy suspects, Apple will continue to perform well because Jobs’ DNA has spread across the company. And when it comes to design quality and customer experience, Jobs and Cook surely see eye-to-eye.