Unless you are living under a rock, then you probably already know about the biggest news story of the year. On Wednesday afternoon Copertino time, Apple announced that Steve Jobs had stepped down from his position as CEO of the company. He was immediately elected the Chairman of the Board, and remains an employee of Apple. Many news outlets, both in and out of the world of technology, immediately began speculating about the future of Apple.
There is no reason to ignore what Jobs did at Apple. He almost single handedly saved the company from certain doom in the late 90s. Many believed that Apple has never going to come back from their product failures in the early part of that decade, but he introduced a series of products that changes technology as we know it. Through it all, however, he has had one man by his side: Tim Cook.
The other side of Apple’s announcement on Wednesday was the naming of their new CEO. That person is former COO Tim Cook, who was hand picked by Jobs to take the reins following his departure. Cook, who first joined Apple as a senior VP following Jobs’ return to the company in 1998, has acted as the head of the company across all of Jobs’ lengthy medical leaves in the past.
I know that many people are questioning why Jobs picked this former IBM and Compaq guy as his successor. They have wondered why the new CEO isn’t Johnny Ives, the Senior VP of Industrial Design, or Scott Forstall, the Senior VP of iOS Software. That reason is simple, when you think about it. Steve wanted it to be Cook.
When you look at the legacy that Jobs is leaving at Apple, its easy to understand that idea. He did take the company from the verge of failure and made it into one of the most valuable companies on the planet. His vision and leadership made Apple the company that many love (and love to hate) today. Through all that, he has been teaching his methods to Tim.
Cook has lead the sales division of Apple for a number of years now. It has been him who has managed to convince millions to buy Apple’s products, driving them to record profits quarter over quarter. It is Cook who lead them to dethrone Exxon as the most valuable company in the world earlier this summer.
During an interview with Bussinessweek in 2004, Jobs downplayed his own role at Apple, instead insisting that Cook was the man behind Apple’s rise. Here is a quote from that interview:
Not everyone knows it, but three months after I came back to Apple, my chief operating guy quit. I couldn’t find anyone internally or elsewhere that knew as much as he did, or as I did. So I did that job for nine months before I found someone I saw eye-to-eye with, and that was Tim Cook. And he has been here ever since.
Of course, I didn’t tell anyone because I already had two jobs [CEO of Apple and of movie maker Pixar Animation Studios] and didn’t want people to worry about whether I could handle three [jobs]. But after Tim came on board, we basically reinvented the logistics of the PC business. We’ve been doing better than Dell [in terms of some metrics such as inventory] for five years now!
This looks like the highest praise Jobs could have given him at that point. It also shows that he and Cook’s mantra of “slash inventory, shut warehouses, run manufacturing close to the bone” was working. That meant that they were managing to drive Apple back to a company that made profits, unlike the Apple that had found in the late 90s.
Nothing shows Cooks dedication to that idea, and to keeping Apple successful, more than his exclamation during the latest Apple earning call. He said that Apple “sold every iPad 2 [they] could make.” While it may sound like he was celebrating the demand for sales, its clear that he was looking to emphasize that Apple only made as many iPads as they new they could sell.
This hatred for storing inventory is part of Cook’s reputation among Apple employees. He believes, along with Jobs, that part of Apple’s problem in the past was the old world mentality of stockpiling inventory. This has been a key part of Apples continued dominance in the technology sector. With Cook at the helm, this is sure to continue.
For a long time now, Cook has been effectively running Apple’s sales division. Begining with Jobs’ leave of absence in 2009, Cook has been doing most of the day to day decision making at Apple. To put it simply, Steve was the face of the company, and the genius behind many of its products. It was Tim who would make sure those were implemented perfectly, marketed flawlessly, and became huge piles of cash for the company.
At the end of the day, not much is going to change at Apple. Sure, there are some people with new titles, and some offices have moved, but the brains will remain in the same places. Steve will offer his guidance and designs, and Tim will still make them print money. We probably won’t see as many black turtlenecks at future device launches, but we will move on.
When push comes to shove, Apple will still be Apple. There will still be new iPhones, new Macs, and new iPads. There will also be products we could never have imagined, and innovation beyond our wildest dreams. For Steve and Tim, this is just business as usual. Don’t praise Jobs one minute and question him the next. If he says Tim Cook is the man who should lead Apple, then I believe him. I’m rooting for you, Tim.