When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

Summary: New Apple CEO Tim Cook may be underestimated at first, but analysts say his imprint on the company's roadmap will start appearing in the years to come.

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Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple and Tim Cook, a natural pick for the job, took over to lead the company. Jobs, however, will become chairman of Apple's board and most likely be involved major product strategy and design issues. When will Cook be the true front man for Apple?

As David Morgenstern noted, Apple had a changing of the guard, but the sky didn't fall. And when you read the Jobs' takes from the likes of Walt Mossberg, Om Malik and others one thing is clear (ZDNet coverage, CNET coverage, CBS News coverage). Jobs isn't gone and hints at an obit are widely premature. Jobs will be less visible for sure, but it's safe to say he may be one of the more involved chairmen in the corporate world. Jobs departure as CEO wasn't a surprise, but still managed to surprise a lot of us.

Those moving parts raise an interesting question: When does the Cook era really begin? The kudos for Cook are far and wide. Frankly, there was no other Apple CEO option. Cook stepped up and ran Apple three times---2004, 2009 and 2011. He has managed Apple's supply chain to the point where it is the company's best asset.

Also: Steve Jobs: Thinking through his CEO legacy

But what's unclear is when will Apple's products really be Cook's. When will Cook's products be front and center and not Jobs'? When will Apple's roadmap reflect Cook's persona?

Now there's a strong management bench at Apple so there are multiple players in on product designs and roadmaps. But at some point the CEO owns the success or failure of future Apple products. In a letter to employees posted on Ars Technica, Cook said that the core values of the company won't change. Jobs created a unique culture that will remain. "I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA," said Cook.

The conventional view is that the Cook era will come in about five years. At that point, grading Cook will be easier.

Analysts say that Jobs' vision and associated product roadmaps for Apple most likely carry out about five years perhaps longer. Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said:

We believe Tim Cook will carry out a long-term (5-year) roadmap that he and Jobs jointly established, including several iterations of Apple's existing products as well as new categories, like an Apple Television as soon as late 2012.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote:

We believe Steve Jobs has his fingerprints on Apple products for the next two years. In the near term, we believe the company will release a new iPhone and enter China with a low-cost iPhone. We see the company releasing an LTE iPhone and also gradually converging its iOS and Mac products. We also continue to believe that Jobs will introduce another revolutionary product such as an iTV or something video-related before his final departure from the company. Though many of the future products may be conceptual at this we believe Steve Jobs' vision of the Apple ecosystem goes beyond five years.

That view creates on interesting management case study. When Apple actually launches TVs Cook will be on the hook for the execution. But it will be Jobs' product vision. Apple rolls out iPad 6 in a few years and will Cook or Jobs' own the vision?

In other words, Cook takes over the company, but may be seen as the operational guru before he gets credit for great products, cutting edge designs and all the perks that go with them. Cook will be widely underestimated at first.

For other CEOs, the urge to make an imprint on a company as its new leader may be irresistible. But Cook doesn't seem like the egomaniac type. He seems suited to pick up the baton from Jobs.

We'll eventually know what traits mark Cook's Apple, but it may take years for those qualities to surface. Along the way Cook will have to manage a bevy of risks ranging from brain drain to execution. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi:

We believe that Steve Jobs has had a unique and powerful imprint on Apple that is irreplaceable by anyone, and that longer term (2+ years out), his full time absence could undermine the performance of the company. We believe that it is hard to imagine a replacement for Jobs' vision, his unparalleled and charismatic marketing leadership and his ability to drive the company to exacting standards and products. While we do expect that Jobs will be able to exert some influence on the company in his position as Chairman, we believe that as CEO, Jobs played an even larger role beyond product design – in marketing, deal negotiation and release planning – than most investors may realize.

Topics: Mobile OS, Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, IT Employment

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  • Company culture

    Company culture seems an unlikely concept, yet it most definitely exists in tangible ways. So I see Jobs' legacy of quality, closure and control surviving long after him. Should Apple have a few more aces ... like iPod, iPhone and iPad ... up its sleeve then the company will maintain its position for a long time.<br><br>It seems to me that Jobs' stepdown had been planned awaiting only suitable events in the PC market: those having been furnished by HP's bombshell, ACER's announcments and the doubt over the future of ultrabooks, netbooks and PC's.<br><br>So this was the precise time to exit (well sort of exit) to control the stock price ... and give the new boy a honeymoon period.
    jacksonjohn
  • He's not dead YET

    Just because Steve is stepping down from CEO does not mean he's out of the picture. You can bet he'll continue to be a "consultant" until his last breath. I'd imagine Steve will STILL be involved blessing or making changes to products. He enjoys it, he's the head of the board and still an Apple employee. Tim trusts him. Why wouldn't he?
    Doug0915
    • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

      @Doug0915
      Doug, much as I admire Jobs for building way better mousetraps and selling them by the ton (and improving the quality of my life, to boot) I believe he has been a drag on Apple in recent months. Investors were fearful that he would die in his jobs and that a fight for control would ensue.

      By stepping aside and naming Tim Cook, Jobs has quelled those fears, and Apple is free to move to its natural, historic PE. The shares are the cheapest they've been since $79 a share.

      Tim Cook has been right many times where Steve has been wrong recently. Cook prevailed in almost every case where the two disagreed and was proved correct by the exceptional growth achieved by Apple.

      Cook will give Jobs the credit, but it is widely known that Jobs would have kept the iPhone much more closed and limited than it is now, had Cook not prevailed.

      And App store policies would have been far more restrictive without Cook's sound judment.
      roger that
      • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

        @roger that My point is that the Tim Cook era began several years ago. Only now, Cook will get the credit for some great successes, with Jobs in the background still collecting some credit.

        Jobs has never been the big innovator at Apple. He has many great engineers who innovate every day.

        Jobs has been the guy who said "No" to innovations that wouldn't work, often because consumers were not quite ready yet and more often because the technology was not yet good enough to make a really useful, fun-to-use product.

        Jobs was also the guy who had exceptional long-term vision of what a computer could be. I shared that vision. I wanted computers that could display and edit video.

        Don't forget that Apple created Quicktime way back in the early 1990s, perhaps before that. It could play movies. But no one wanted to watch the 2-inch by 1.25-inch movies that processors were capable of displaying at that time. I was exctremely excited when I first used Quicktime, because it showed me the future ten or twelve or fifteen years down the road.

        Apple was ready. But the technology was not. Jobs wanted great video and audio capabilities that would let people create, play and edit their favorite songs and movies.

        He wanted tiny, low power, low heat devices that could be mobile. That's why Apple, two decades ago, was a heavy investor in Arm Holdings, which builds the processors used in most of today's smart phones.

        Jobs saw the future. So did many other people. But Jobs was the guy who more single-mindedly than any other pursued his dream. And I have been a cheerleader for him all the way. Because I knew I wanted what he wanted.
        roger that
  • Tim Cook needs to drop all android lawsuits

    if he wants to survive as CEO.
    The Linux Geek
    • Message has been deleted.

      audidiablo
      • Message has been deleted.

        MajorlyCool
      • Message has been deleted.

        FrackAnon
    • 2011: Year of the GNU/Linux desktop.

      @The Linux Geek

      Up the middle!
      Up the middle!
      Up the middle!
      Punt!
      rfolden@...
      • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

        @MajorlyCool

        It was from an article from the other day on Google+ and the name validation issue. Someone was referring to how Google would be doing what they did to the Jews with numbers as validation. Then the name was coined Jewgle. Futhermore Jew isn't a racist term or a bad word so get over it. If you don't like Jews keep it to yourself.
        audidiablo
      • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

        @FrackAnon

        You apparently missed my post... If you have a problem with Jews keep it to yourself. I was referring to another post you dolt.
        audidiablo
    • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

      @The Linux Geek And here I thought you were gone - swore never to return. Interesting.

      And why should Tim Cook drop the lawsuits if they are perfectly valid? And they are not against Android but against manufacturers. Nice try on the spin there Linux Geek.
      athynz
    • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

      @The Linux Geek

      Two points:
      1. There are no Android lawsuits. You can look it up. No lawsuits object to anything in Android. Read the fine print. I have. There are no Android lawsuits.
      2. If Apple fails to act to protect its intellectual property, the company will start to get ripped off like no one has ever seen. Already there are hundreds of products that resemble Apple products in great detail. There always have been. All laptops look quite similar nowadays because Apple decided that's how their laptops would look, and everyone else took their cue from Apple. Even vacuum cleaners started looking like iMacs made out of Bondi blue plastic after Jon Ive created the colorful plastic-bubble iMacs.
      roger that
  • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

    Apple should hire Ballmer - he's got true vision and is probably much better than Jobs ever was.
    Monkeypox
    • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

      @Monkeypox - I laughed so hard I spit coffee out of my nose!

      Nobody wants Ballmer!
      Gr8Music
      • Message has been deleted.

        William Farrell
      • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

        @Gr8Music LMFAO :D
        MrElectrifyer
    • Message has been deleted.

      Turd Furgeson
      • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

        @Turd Furgeson
        While Gates also had great vision, he did not share Job's consumer focus and attention to detail. That's why his legacy is windows (where he gained a monopoly with a clever business deal with IBM) + what he could get by using his Windows monopoly.

        A perfect example of this is the tablet computer. Gates saw potential in the tablet form factor for quite a while (I can't think of the source right now), but Apple ended up having to show him how to do it right because it turned out levering Windows wasn't enough to get common consumers to buy into tablets and he had no other idea how to do it.
        anono
      • RE: When does Apple's Tim Cook era really begin?

        anono

        Gates helped make PC's affordable to consumers. Not sure how that is not consumer focused. He also delivered business apps and server solutions for the business consumers.
        Turd Furgeson