It was the question Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) watchers had been asking for years: What happens when Steve Jobs is gone?
Right or wrong, much of Apple’s reversal in fortune was being personally attributed to returned company co-founder and CEO Jobs. And as Apple climbed from PC also-ran to technology titan — thanks in large part to the world-beating iPhone, which turns five this month — investors grew uneasy. Jobs had already ditched Apple (or was pushed — depending on who’s telling it) once before. What happens if he leaves again?
As Jobs’ health deteriorated, questions of whether Apple would decline with its co-founder’s passing became more frequent. As late as July of last year, Apple’s board wasn’t commenting on succession plans, although rumors had some board members in discussion with the head of what The Wall Street Journal described as a “high profile technology company.”
The question of “who?” was answered on Aug. 24, when Apple announced Steve Jobs was stepping down as CEO, to be replaced by Tim Cook.
Cook, former chief operating officer and head of the Macintosh division, became Apple’s fifth CEO (after John Sculley, Michael Spindler, Gil Amelio and Jobs). He stepped into a harsh spotlight, assuming one of the most powerful — and in some ways unenviable — positions in the corporate world, a spotlight that became even more intense after Jobs died.
Can Cook continue to lead Apple to the successes it enjoyed under Jobs? That’s a question best answered in retrospect. However, we can examine Cook’s performance to date to see how he stands up against his iconic predecessor.
Cook hasn’t been at the helm long enough to oversee the launch of an entirely new product. Under his watch, the iPhone 4S, new iPad, and Retina display MacBook Pro have been released, but all are incremental upgrades of existing products. They have Jobs’ fingerprints all over them, and it would be pretty hard for Cook to mess up these already successful products.
Verdict: Jobs was reportedly involved in the forthcoming iPhone 5 and even the rumored Apple TV (or iTV), so it could be a while until we see a new Apple product that Cook can call his own.
Nothing much to say here. First-quarter 2011 (under Jobs): $26.74 billion in revenue, profit of $6 billion and stock price at about $336. First-quarter 2012 (under Cook): $46.33 billion in revenue, profit of $13.06 billion and stock price at about $422.
Verdict: So far under Cook, Apple continues to be a steamroller.