Apple's Tim Cook: Steve Jobs' possible successor runs shareholders meeting
Apple's Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook is the presumed heir apparent to Steve Jobs.
So all eyes were on Cook as he sat on Jobs' stool onstage at Apple's annual shareholders meeting Wednesday. It was only the second time in a decade that Jobs skipped the meeting.
Cook may not have mesmerized the crowd (after all, this was a shareholders meeting, which has none of the magic of Apple unveiling a sleek new gadget). But he did get his share of applause, particularly as he ticked off some of the impressive stats for the iPhone and iPad in the last fiscal year.
And he got a few laughs. One investor asked Cook if he had seen "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, which details some of the conditions in factories run by Apple suppliers in China.
Cook joked that if it doesn't run on ESPN or CNBC, he hasn't seen it. Then he delivered a fervent defense of Apple's practices in China.
When the investor pressed him again about the play's depiction of Jobs, Cook lost a bit of his cool.
He said: "I don't need to see a play. I know Steve."
Cook may know him better than most.
Jobs enticed this veteran of IBM and Compaq to join a troubled company in 1998 as it wobbled on the precipice of failure. He set about fixing what was rotten at the core of the company — poor product quality, spotty availability and high prices — and restored Apple to profitability.
While Jobs obsesses over every detail of Apple's products, Cook obsesses over every detail of its business operations. His efforts were as crucial to Apple's resurgence as any of Jobs' designs. Apple rewarded him with added responsibilities overseeing sales, customer support and logistics, and made him the company's best-paid employee, with $59 million in salary, bonus and stock last year.
In September 2009, when Jobs made his first appearance after his last medical leave to introduce a new line of iPods, he thanked one Apple employee by name: Cook, who led a standing ovation for Jobs from the front row of the San Francisco auditorium.
People who know him say Cook has mastered running Apple's business while giving the creative team room to roam on the cutting edge of technology and design.
"Tim is an incredible administrator and operational leader," said Dan Walker, Apple's former chief talent officer. "He is smart enough to accommodate creativity."
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Apple COO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the company's headquarters on October 20, 2010 in Cupertino. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images