If reports a new iPhone is imminent are true, then Steve Jobs’ departure from the chief executive’s seat at Apple is bad news for Nokia chief Stephen Elop.
Why? Because it means the newly-installed Apple chief Tim Cook will get off to a flying start, achieving in the space of a few weeks what Elop hasn’t in the space of almost 12 months – the launch of a killer new product that’s bound to generate a lot of buzz around the company.
Ok, Nokia hasn’t exactly been resting on its laurels in the Elop era to-date. The past six months have seen the new CEO complete a landmark deal with Microsoft that sees the pair trying to construct an Apple- and Android-rivaling mobile market, and Nokia preparing to launch its first smartphone running Windows Phone 7.
Elop’s tenure has also seen Nokia outsource future development of its legacy Symbian platform to Accenture, launch its one – and potentially only – MeeGo unit, the N9 and the N8, which admittedly came within a few weeks of Elop’s appointment, but only after the launch was repeatedly delayed.
The firm has also been busy in the low-end market, developing dual-SIM handsets for emerging markets that culminated in the recent launch of its first sub-$30 (€21) feature phones, the 100 and 101.
But let’s be honest. The device we’re all waiting for is that WP7 unit. And Apple already seems to have that base covered by ‘delaying’ the launch of the iPhone 5 until October - the month when Nokia is widely tipped to unveil the Windows device.
With claims that a picture of an emaciated Steve Jobs is faked, it is possible that the timing of his departure has more to do with giving Cook a head start over Apple’s rivals than rapidly ailing health. Silicon Republic even speculates that Apple is ready to unveil its first TV set and that Jobs stepped aside to allow Cook to unveil the product.
There is method to both theories. In either event, Cook would have at least one high-profile launch under his belt within the first few months of his reign, which would go a long way to answering questions of whether Apple will remain a cutting-edge tech firm without its guru-like co-founder.
What is clear is that Apple’s board is keen not to put Cook under the same immediate pressure to succeed that Elop finds himself in (lord help him if the WP7 unit is a flop). The board has allocated Cook a million restricted Apple stocks that will pay out in 2016 and 2011 provided he is still employed by the firm.
That suggests Cook has at least five years to establish himself as a worthy successor to Jobs. He may also outlast several of his current device-making CEO rivals.