Cook gets a favorable treatment from Time writer Lev Grossman, who describes him as “a seducer, a Southern drawler, slow and soft-spoken” whose personality stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs.
His fellow runners-up are Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, and physicist and Higgs Boson researcher Fabiola Gianotti.
The profile describes Cook in familiar terms — as a wizard of the supply chain hand-picked to lead Apple in the post-Jobs era — but drops a couple of surprising details as well.
For example, Cook wakes up at 3:45 every morning to check e-mail, hit the gym and get a caffeine fix all before heading into work. Cook also offered a little more detail on how Jobs convinced him to leave a job at Compaq and come to Apple, despite having little to no experience with consumer electronics.
Cook said that he had no interest in a job at Apple but wanted to meet Jobs. But soon into the conversation, Cook found himself in an unexpected situation.
“We started to talk, and, I swear, five minutes into the conversation I’m thinking, I want to do this. And it was a very bizarre thing, because I literally would have placed the odds on that near zero, probably at zero,” Cook said.
Jobs offered him a position at Apple just a day after Cook went back to Compaq. He accepted the next day.
In his comments about the present and the future, Cook noted that Apple had one of its most aggressive years in terms of products, releasing new gadgets in nearly all of its product lines.
“It’s the most prolific year of innovation ever,” he told Grossman. “If you went back and were to watch a compressed movie of it, it’s amazing the products that have come out.”
And, he said, Apple’s still looking for new markets to disrupt.
Past tech winners have included Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 1999 and the computer itself in 1982. Technically, 2006’s pick was also tech-related, as Time named “You” as the person of the year in 2006, pointing to the rise in user-generated content.
In a short list the magazine announced Wednesday, the “Today” show reported that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was also a contender for the title. While she's not a featured runner-up, she is on the magazine’s list of “people who mattered” in 2012. In its write-up by Harry McCracken, Time explains its choice by highlighting her performance so far — as well as the attention she got for being “the Fortune 500’s highest-profile working mom.”