Apple became one of the world’s most successful technology companies under Steve Jobs, and it remains to be seen whether new leader Tim Cook can sustain the company’s market dominance and magic.
Jobs’ resignation from Apple as CEO in late August and death at age 56 in October after years of health struggles, have resulted in former Apple COO Cook taking charge.
Jobs will be remembered as a visionary, charting a path for Apple to spark a personal computing revolution in the ’70s and ’80s, and developing the iconic iPod, iPhone and iPad products. While Jobs was central to the public perception of Apple, Cook is a shrewd operations and corporate strategist who could sustain Apple’s success.
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Jobs had a remarkable affinity for perceiving what users wanted, and Cook will almost certainly not replicate that trait, analysts said. Jobs preloaded Apple’s pipeline with concrete products, and as an operations guy, Cook will execute on the plans and keep the company successful as it has been over the last decade.
“You could say that Cook provides Apple a skill set very similar to what Mark Hurd offered HP — meaning the company should continue to be very efficiently and profitably run,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
From a product standpoint, analysts say Apple won’t make any drastic changes in its go-to-market product strategy, at least in the short term. Cook has already ensured Apple employees that things won’t change as the company adapts to life after Jobs.
“From a product development and strategy point of view, the company will likely hew very closely to a ‘What Would Steve Do?’ philosophy,” King says.
When Jobs was on leave, Cook was Apple’s public face and proved his mettle by handling day-to-day operations. As CEO, he’s diplomatic, energetic and could do a better job at maintaining relationships than Jobs did, says Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. By all accounts, Jobs was considered a taskmaster who at times could be difficult.
“Cook tends not to exert power for the sake of demonstrating he’s boss,” Kay says. “His diplomacy may smooth over things that Jobs made difficult.”
But challenges await Cook as Jobs’ successor. One of the top concerns is around retaining top talent drawn by Jobs that made Apple so successful.
“We don’t know if Apple can retain the best talent over the next few years,” Kay says.
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Taking a more collaborative approach than in the past, Cook will likely work with key personnel such as Jonathan Ive, who is senior vice president of industrial design, and Scott Forstall, who runs the iOS organization, around planning the next iconic product.
An unanswered question is also how effective Cook will be at engaging customers.
“[Jobs] was so central to … Apple and its success that I’m not certain how well the company will do without a similarly charismatic figurehead,” Pund-IT’s King says.