Yesterday afternoon brought the big news that Steve Jobs had resigned from the position of Apple CEO (he is now Chairman of Apple’s Board), along with that came the news that Tim Cook will now permanently take over as Apple CEO. Cook had been acting CEO since January this year when Jobs went on medical leave – Cook now has to step up and officially lead Apple, which recently became the most valuable company in the world.
But unlike Jobs who is known to a sizeable proportion of general society and has quite a reputation, Cook is fairly unknown. As Cook today begins his first official day as the CEO of Apple we’ve written this post to give you, our readers, a little bit of background of Tim Cook and what he is like. Be sure to jump the break to read our succinct biography of him along with some fascinating additional reading and videos.
Life Before Apple
Cook was born on November 1st 1960 (making him nearly 51 years old, Steve Jobs is 56) in Robertsdale, Alabama to a shipyard worker father and a homemaker mother. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University in 1982 he went to work at IBM for 12 years.
During that period at IBM Cook also studied to attain an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business which he achieved in 1988. Cook demonstrated his intense devotion to work during his tenure at IBM – even once volunteering to work over Christmas and New Year holidays just so IBM could complete its orders for the year. Yet despite that intense devotion to work, his old IBM boss Richard Daugherty told Fortune that Cook had “a manner that really caused people to enjoy working with him”.
Following his departure from IBM in 1994 he joined Intelligent Electronics where he worked in the computer-reseller division of which he eventually become COO of. When he sold the division to Ingram Micro in 1997 he moved on to work at Compaq for a short stint of six months before Steve Jobs poached him in 1998 to work at Apple.
Tim Cook began his career at Apple with an office near Steve Jobs and as the Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations he quickly started to steer Apple away from manufacturing components themselves – instead he ensured Apple established strong relationships with external manufacturers. He applied strict discipline to Apple’s management of the supply line, playing a pivotal role in Apple’s recovery during that period that now seems an eternity ago.
As a result, Apple’s inventory, measured by the amount of time it sat on the company’s balance sheet, quickly fell from months to days. Inventory, Cook has said, is “fundamentally evil,” … “You kind of want to manage it like you’re in the dairy business,” he has said. “If it gets past its freshness date, you have a problem.” [Fortune Magazine]
Cook’s success at operational management is made particular mention on his Apple bio page where it says that Cook plays “a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace”. Cook could be said to be the masterful conductor that directs the massive orchestra behind Apple that manages to supply components and manufacture millions of Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads in a nearly flawless manner despite such significant demand.
Over his years at Apple, Cook has gradually taken on more responsibilities, which include leading the sales force, customer support, the Macintosh division from 2004 and in 2007 becoming Apple’s COO. Those responsibilities would have played a big part in his selection for the CEO position today but what has made Cook an obvious choice for CEO post-Jobs has been the three stints in which Cook himself became acting CEO of Apple.
Cook first took on the job of temporarily substituting for Jobs for two months in 2004 whilst Jobs recovered from pancreatic cancer surgery. In 2009 Cook again took the reins for several months whilst Jobs underwent a liver transplant and spent time off to recuperate. Then finally this year when Jobs again took medical leave in January, Cook was again given the task of acting as Apple’s CEO and has been performing that role until yesterday when Steve Jobs resigned as CEO and the board officially instated Cook as Apple CEO.
Over those three periods in which Jobs was absent from the CEO post, Cook has attained more than a years worth of experience – he now faces the task of continuing to guide Apple’s direction and run day-to-day tasks for many years to come. It’s a position Cook didn’t expect to find himself:
Come on, replace Steve? No. He’s irreplaceable… That’s something people have to get over. I see Steve there with gray hair in his 70s, long after I’m retired.
Unlike Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, Scott Forstall and some of the other Apple Executives, Tim Cook doesn’t really make all that many public appearances representing Apple. About the extent of his public ‘appearances’ have been the quarterly Apple earnings call – although this avenue has given Cook some space to share his own opinions on Apple including this recent one as shared by This is my next:
When asked if Apple had to cut prices in order to increase sales, Cook offered a variation on a theme: Apple only makes products its people would want to own, and it doesn’t go after the lower price. In fact, Cook thinks it’s Apple’s job to convince people to spend a little more on significantly better products, and he points to China as an example of where that strategy has been a success.
With all that said, he has made three appearances at events in the past year representing Apple. The first was at the ‘Antennagate’ keynote where he appeared alongside Steve Jobs and Bob Masfield for the Q&A session. The second was at the Back to the Mac keynote in October last year where he gave a short ‘State of the Mac’ summary. Then earlier this year he appeared at the Verizon iPhone event alongside the Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.
Personality And Devotion To Work
Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs. That very fact will certainly change the way in which Apple operates to a degree because Cook won’t run Apple exactly like Jobs did – he is not, and does not try to be, a clone of Jobs. Yet despite the differences in personality of the two, Fortune notes how both are “equally obsessive and exacting about [their] work”.
There is a fascinating anecdote of Cook’s demeanor when it comes to getting things done and remedied. Shortly after Cook joined Apple he was in a meeting discussing a problem in China and said to the others: “This is really bad, someone should be in China driving this”. Within thirty-minutes he zeroed in on Sabih Khan who was operations manager at the time and questions him, asking “why are you still here?” – Khan, without even getting a change of clothes, immediately books a ticket to China.
Unlike Jobs, Cook is known to be a quiet, shy and calm man – never raising his voice. Yet despite his calm appearances he is almost brutal in his work intensity, some would say he is a workaholic. He is said to begin emailing the executives that report to him at 4:30am and often holds a Sunday night telephone meeting in order to prepare for more meetings on Monday.
A former Apple executive says he used to have a rehearsed line in his head on the off chance he ended up in an elevator with Jobs, who can be spontaneously fearsome. Did he have a similar canned speech for Cook? “No, because he wouldn’t talk to you.” [Fortune Magazine]
Cook’s shyness has meant he has mostly stayed out of the limelight and barely anything is known about the 50 year old’s life outside of work. Cook is described by Fortune Magazine as “a lifelong bachelor…[who] vacations in places like Yosemite and Zion national parks, and shows few visible signs of wealth despite having sold more than $100 million of Apple stock over the years.” He is apparently somewhat of a fitness enthusiast, often going to the gym, mountain climbing and cycling.
One thing you probably won’t see Cook do is don the infamous black turtleneck shirt that Steve Jobs is known to wear so frequently. Cook prefers a more business-casual approach, wearing jeans with a simple shirt – although he does frequently wear Nike shoes, where he is on the board of directors (interestingly Steve Jobs much prefered New Balance).
Further Reading & Watching
We’ve just scratched the surface of who Tim Cook is, so we’ve attatched some links to other articles (the Forbes article is truly fantastic) about Tim Cook and some videos featuring him.
Fortune Magazine - The Genius Behind Steve
This is my next - Tim Cook, Apple’s New CEO
The Next Web - Who Is The New Apple CEO Tim Cook?
TUAW - Tim Cook: My First-Impression of Apple’s New CEO