Caretaker CEO or the next big thing?
Cook's role as Apple's CEO will become clearer over the next few months and years. Is he just a caretaker CEO who can keep the company stable in its transition period. Will Cook's role remain unchanged from what he did as chief operating officer and he will continue end-to-end management of Apple's supply chain? Or does Cook have a bigger vision for the company?
Most reports so far are leaning toward caretaker, describing Cook as a great "manager" or an "operations and finance guy." That suggests Cook may only serve as company leader until Apple can find someone with a bigger vision for the company.
Then again, Apple doesn't necessarily need to look for another Jobs, an impossible goal anyway. The company may find success in the long term being run like a committee, as Daring Fireball's John Gruber recently pointed out. Under this setup, Cook remains in the CEO's chair, but final product decisions are made by senior vice presidents such as Ive, Scott Forstall and, possibly, Phil Schiller.
Regardless of what happens with Cook, at some point, about 5 to 10 years from now, the current Apple playbook will run out, Jobs' influence over the company won't be as strong and Apple will have to decide where to go next. At that point, Apple will decide if it should strictly adhere to its Jobsian ethos that starts with beautiful product design, but also includes thorough attention to detail and a willingness to jettison any product that has outlived its usefulness. Or the company could maintain some of these principles, but dump others. Third, Apple could throw everything out and start fresh. The path Apple ultimately chooses depends on what happens over the next few years, how the technological landscape changes and how successful the company is without Jobs as CEO. But at some point, the company will be confronted with defining itself in a post-Jobs era.