What makes him powerful: Tim Cook is challenged with leading the world's most valuable tech company after the passing of Apple's founder and visionary Steve Jobs--no small task.
But Cook has plenty going for him. He served as interim CEO of Apple during Jobs' leaves of absence. And perhaps more importantly, Jobs himself named Cook as the one to replace him when Jobs stepped down from the position in August, just months before his death from cancer.
That's not to say Cook will be a clone of Jobs. In his authorized biography, Jobs said that Cook "is not a product person, per se," a potentially cutting evaluation of the CEO of a company at the forefront of the consumer electronics industry. But many believe that Apple's deep ranks of executive talent--from Scott Forstall to Eddy Cue to Jonathan Ive--will help fill in the gaps left by the untimely departure of Jobs.
Of course, Cook was selected for the position due to his strengths, not his weaknesses. And Cook definitely has considerable strength. Before rising to the CEO position, Cook served as Apple's COO and was responsible for all of the company's worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple's supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple's Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, "ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace," according to Apple.
Thus, Cook has played a key role in bringing Apple's "i" products to the masses. Though Apple long worked at the extreme high end of the consumer electronics market, Cook's meticulous attention to the company's supply chain has helped Apple reduce prices across the company's product portfolio--to the point where low-cost Asian manufacturers continue to have trouble matching Apple's price points. This attention to both quality and price has helped Apple grow into a major force in consumer electronics.
Indeed, Apple is the bar that most in the white-hot smartphone market judge themselves by. The handset market was revolutionized in 2007 by the introduction of the iPhone; today, virtually every smartphone on the market bares a large resembelence to the device. And in a testament to the power of that single device, Apple in the second quarter became the world's largest smartphone vendor by volume. Though Apple was surpassed in the third quarter by Samsung, many expect Apple to regain the crown in the fourth quarter on the success of its new iPhone 4S.
And the success of the iPhone 4S, Apple's latest effort in the smartphone game, is the company most successful to date. Apple shipped a whopping 4 million iPhones during the first week of the iPhone 4S' availability. And the iPhone's momentum shows no signs of slowing.
Though Android has managed to surpass the iPhone in terms of raw market share, Apple is still very much the company to watch in the smartphone game--perhaps because the company helped rewrite the rules of the wireless game by wresting control over the customer away from the wireless carrier. Most iPhone users consider themselves customers of Apple, no of a wireless carrier.
So what will the future of Apple under Cook hold? Jobs was rumored to be deeply involved in Apple's product roadmap for the next several years, including a possible TV play, which could help solidify Apple as the world's leading technology innovator. But every company that reaches the top has only one direction to go, and Cook could oversee that movement as well. +Mike