Tim Cook, the man taking over as CEO of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) now that Steve Jobs has resigned, will not be entering unfamiliar territory come tomorrow. He has been filling in for Jobs on an interim basis since January of this year, when Jobs took a medical leave of absence.
In these past eight months, Cook has overseen record-breaking earnings and two milestone product launches. For those reasons alone, the board, investors and Apple fans would have welcomed Jobs’ choice as successor. But his wider role at the company for the past 14 years is what seals the deal on his suitability for the role.
Cook, who is 50, was not with Apple at the start as Jobs was, but he is a veteran nonetheless. He joined in 1998, and has been a key player in Apple’s most revolutionary period as a company, as it moved into portable devices like the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and iPad, and all the services that have come along with them.
From his first position as SVP of worldwide operations, Cook has been credited with restructuring a significant part of Apple’s business: how it manufacturers its devices. He oversaw the closing down of factories and warehouses and the subsequent outsourcing of those functions to third parties.
That switch had a significant effect on the company’s margins and its speed to market, and it’s been an essential part of how the company has been able to diversify quickly and effectively into areas like mobile devices from its original base of desktop and laptop computers.
In 2007, Cook was promoted to COO of the company.
Cook had two previous tours of duty as interim CEO, filling in for Jobs while he was on medical leave in 2004 and 2009, before the ultimate substitution was made this past January.
His leadership style, it has been noted, is a contrast to that of his predecessor: calm, methodical and intense versus Jobs’ animated enthusiasm.
Analysts have also noted that his taking over the role of CEO will likely mean few near-term changes in Apple’s strategy. As Tim Bajarin notes, Apple’s product road maps go five years out, with designs in place until 2015, and will therefore still have the mark of Jobs on it. (Not least also because Jobs wants to stay on as chairman, a director and “Apple employee.”)
What else do we know about his leadership style? As blogger Dan Frommer points out, Cook has demonstrated as far back as 2009, during one of those other substitution stints, that he has just as much focus on innovation-meeting-simplicity as Jobs, and the ability to say “no” just as well as the guy before him: “We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us,” he said in an earnings call that year.
Cook, who is an industrial engineer by training, had also worked at IBM and Compaq before arriving at Apple.