What makes him powerful: It's been a big year for Apple, to say the least.
With Steve Jobs at the helm this year--back from last year's medical leave--Apple has managed to surpass Microsoft's market capitalization, create a new product category with the iPad, and enter the ranks of the world's top-5 biggest handset vendors. Apple is clearly a powerful force in the wireless industry, and most agree much of the company's success is due to Jobs's vision and business savvy.
Consider Apple's most recent quarter: Revenues clocked in at $20.34 billion, soaring past the $12.21 billion it had in the year-ago quarter. Apple also bested its guidance of $18 billion, and scored a net profit of $4.31 billion, compared with $2.53 billion in the year-ago period. The results were such that Jobs made a rare appearance on Apple's earnings conference call, commenting on a wide range of topics including BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM isn't "catching up with Apple any time in the future") and Google's Android platform ("Android is becoming more fragmented every day").
But it's Apple's iPhone shipments that are doing the real talking. The company sold 14.1 million iPhones in the quarter--nearly double the 7.4 million it sold in the year-ago quarter and much higher than its previous record of 8.75 million units. The figure helped Apple jump past RIM to become the world's No. 4 handset maker in the third quarter, according to several research firms. The move marks Apple's entrance into the world's top 5 handset vendor rankings. In four short years--on the back of exactly one very expensive model of phone--Apple has managed to rocket into the ranks of the world's largest handset markers. (To be clear (and fair) though, Nokia--the world's largest handset maker by volume--still dwarfs Apple with shipments of 110.4 million handsets in the third quarter.)
But it's Apple's innovations that keep the company on the cutting edge. Witness: the iPad. The gadget, unveiled earlier this year, served to almost single-handily create a new category of products that many of the rest of the world's handset makers are struggling to cash in on--Samsung, Motorola, LG, Hewlett-Packard, RIM and others have either released tablets or plan to do so in the coming months. Operators too are looking to tablets to help drive additional data revenues. After all, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads during its most recent quarter, higher than the 3.27 million it sold during the tablet's first quarter of availability.
Few if any other American executives are as closely tied to their company's public and professional identity, or so synonymous with innovation and ingenuity, as Jobs is. Not just a personal technology visionary, but by all accounts a canny and ruthless negotiator as well, Jobs is above all a merchant of cool--spearheading a series of trailblazing gadgets that have emerged as must-have accessories for urban hipsters and soccer moms alike. --Mike