Apple’s Tim Cook marks one year at the top

August 24, 2012

It’s been one year since Apple announced that Steve Jobs, the company’s co-founder, would resign from his position as chief executive, placing interim CEO Tim Cook into the job for good.

Cook, of course, had been running the company for a while at that point while taking his third turn as Jobs’s stand-in while the famous executive was on medical leave. Jobs was to stay on as chairman.

But, as we all know, Jobs died in October, just a day after Cook presented the iPhone 4S and its personal assistant software Siri to the world. And amid the flood of tributes to Jobs was a lot of wondering about whether Apple could still be Apple — the same innovative, wildly successful company — without Steve Jobs.

So, one year in, how has Cook managed at Apple?

By the numbers, it’s hard to call him anything but a success. Sure, Apple missed expectations for a couple of quarters , but under his tenure, Apple has also posted record sales of the iPhone and iPad and record revenue growth. In the last quarter, which disappointed analysts, Apple sold 26 million iPhones and 17 million iPads for a quarterly revenue of $35 billion. The company’s expansion into China and the developing world has been impressive.

It also sits comfortably in the position of the most valuable company in the world, with a market capitalization of about $623 billion. Apple hit that high as it set a new record share price Monday, pushing it over the record mark of $618.6 billion set by Microsoft in 1999. It was a milestone for a company that looked to be on the verge of bankruptcy in the 1990s, though Microsoft still holds the record when share prices are adjusted for inflation.

As a leader, Cook has earned praise. Much of the reputation that he built as Apple’s chief operating officer — a role that allowed him to be the architect for the company’s impressive supply chain — has carried over as he goes it alone. He’s known for being quiet but demanding and has gotten high marks from employees who’ve been cheerful when rating his performance. For example, Cook has a 95 percent approval mark on the workplace rating site Glassdoor.com.

Many Apple executives have left the company since 2011, but as ZDNet notes, high-profile departees such as retail chief Ron Johnson (now CEO of JCPenney), software vice president Bertrand Serlet and mobile advertising vice president Andy Miller all left during Jobs’s final period of medical leave. Two executives — VP of hardware engineering Bob Mansfield and VP and corporate controller Betsy Rafael — have retired since Cook officially took the top spot.

The real question for Apple, of course, is whether it can continue innovating and find the next best thing in consumer tech. By that measure, a year is far too short a time to judge. Cook has kept the gears moving and the company growing, but Apple’s steady improvements to its products have hardly been revolutionary on the same scale as the first iPod, iPhone or iPad. And while it may not be fair to expect Apple to make not only great products but great new products, that’s the reputation the company has. In the coming months, Apple has plenty of opportunities to show off its stuff. The launches of the next iPhone and/or a smaller iPad will give it a chance to show that it can still create a great riff on an existing product — or maybe the company will surprise again with something completely new.

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Apple’s Tim Cook promises ‘incredible’ products, offers no details

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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