Why Apple is in safe hands with Tim Cook

Tim Cook
Cook has been running most of Apple for several years as Jobs' right-hand man

He wears blue jeans and trainers. He's a workaholic. He's incredibly intelligent, doesn't miss a detail, and can destroy you with a single question.

He's had a brush with mortality. He's intensely private. He eats, sleeps and breathes Apple. Does Tim Cook remind you of anybody?

He may not have Steve Jobs' fearsome temper or quick sarcasm - his sense of humour is bone dry and he's more likely to disarm you with his slow, southern drawl than go ballistic.

But like Jobs,Tim Cook is a force to be reckoned with. And as Jobs Steps aside to become chairman of Apple, there's no doubt that Apple has been left in capable hands with its new CEO.

The former Compaq and IBM executive joined Apple in 1998 with the job of sorting out Apple's manufacturing and distribution. To say he sorted things out would be an understatement. Cook has slashed Apple's costs and turned it into an intensely profitable moneymaking machine - and the magical appearance of new products when Steve Jobs says "boom" is entirely his doing.

He's also overseen some exceptionally smart deals that made Apple's competitors weep, such as pre-ordering enough flash memory in 2005 to corner the market for at least five years, and he's the man who hammers out iPhone deals with phone companies.

Shared attitudes

Cook may not have Jobs' eye for design, but there's no doubt that he shares Jobs' attitudes. When some new MacBooks were unveiled in October 2009, Cook listed six reasons for Apple's ever-growing Mac sales: better computers, better software, compatibility through Boot Camp and virtualisation - "when I look at this, frankly, it sends a shiver up my spine," he drawled, as an image of an iMac running Windows appeared behind him noting Windows Vista's woes, marketing and retail stores.

As Apple watcher John Gruber noted at the time, "What does not appear on that list is price... Cook's list isn't marketing bullshit - it's an accurate, succinct description of Apple's computer business." As Gruber points out, Cook summed up the entire Apple Special Event - and Apple itself - in just five words: "We don't compromise on quality."

And in July, Cook couldn't resist a dig at Windows PCs during Apple's earnings call."I think there was some cannibalisation of new Macs by iPad. We shipped a record 9.2 million iPads during the quarter, which is over two times the number of Macs that we shipped," he said.

"And it's clear that some customers chose to purchase an iPad instead of a new Mac. But the thing that really excites us is that more customers chose to buy an iPad than a Windows PC."

Outside Apple, Cook is on the board of Nike, munches energy bars, is a huge fan of Lance Armstrong and spends most of his free time hiking, biking or in the gym. After a health scare in 1996 - he was wrongly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis - he began competing in cycling events to raise money for MS, and apparently gives away most of his money. He also funds a scholarship at Auburn University, where he did his engineering degree.

So what will Apple be like under his leadership? For a while at least, it'll be exactly the same: Cook has been running most of Apple for several years as Jobs' right-hand man, and was in charge of the entire company while Jobs recovered from surgery in 2004 and then again during Jobs' more recent medical leave of absences- most recently earlier this year.

As Fortune notedin 2008, "the heads of important departments like legal, finance, design and marketing report direct to Jobs. But no other executive touches as much of Apple as Cook."

With Cook running the ship and Jonathan Ive taking care of design, Steve Jobs is leaving Apple in very capable hands.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.