And what a year it has been: Apple’s stock hit an all time high, it sold a record number of products, and just this week became the most valuable company in history, though Microsoft was still more valuable in 1999 when one accounts for inflation.
Cook, who has worked at Apple for 14 years and was previously the COO, had big shoes to fill. Steve Jobs was one of the world’s most recognizable business and technology leaders, and that’s not just because of his signature black turtleneck and jeans. He was beyond charismatic (just watch any of his keynote presentations), was hands-on in the design and development of all products, and was never afraid to speak his mind about competitors.
Given Apple’s year of milestones and successes, some industry analysts say Cook has shown that Apple does not need to be led by a clone of Jobs. Other analysts say it is really too early to tell.
“Tim Cook has shown so far that he can execute to Steve Jobs’s vision,” Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights, told ABC News. “The true test for Cook and Apple will come as they need to move off a specific path they were on under Jobs, or get onto a new path that Jobs didn’t envision. I can see that time coming for Apple in the next few years.”
Forrester CEO George Colony wrote something similar in April, though he had a bit less faith in Cook. “When Steve Jobs departed, he took three things with him: 1) singular charismatic leadership that bound the company together and elicited extraordinary performance from its people; 2) the ability to take big risks, and 3) an unparalleled ability to envision and design products,” Colony wrote. “Apple’s momentum will carry it for 24-48 months. But without the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company….”
Still, Cook has proven himself a worthy successor this year. Beyond company profits, he has tackled working conditions at Apple’s factories, handled intellectual property suits between Apple and its mobile competitors, and introduced new products, including the new iPad. He is also expected to take center stage at an Apple event on Sept. 12, when the company will likely introduce the long-rumored iPhone 5.