Thursday, January 22, 2009

Apple’s Tim Cook looking more like Steve Jobs’ successor

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts to review Apple’s holiday sales quarter on Wednesday, the first question Apple executives had to field was about the impact of CEO Steve Jobs’ medical leave.
Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, asked if Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook would be the likely replacement for Jobs should the Apple co-founder not return from his six-month medical leave.
Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, replied first and stuck to the company’s talking points.
“Steve is the CEO of Apple and plans to remain involved in major strategic decisions and Tim will be responsible for our day-to-day operations,” he said. Brief and a non-answer.
Then Cook chimed in. He gave a lengthy, passionate response.
His main point was that Apple has such a strong focus and corporate culture and talented employees that the company will do “extremely well” with or without Jobs going forward.
But listening to Cook speak one couldn’t help but feel that this man is the right person to carry on Jobs’ vision and legacy. Maybe he was signaling to employees that very message.
Given the nature of the audio teleconference, it was hard to tell if Cook’s remarks were scripted, but they sounded spontaneous.
As he spoke about Apple’s corporate culture, he talked about what makes Apple unique. His list of the company’s fundamental beliefs sounded like the Nicene Creed from the Christian faith. He repeated the phase “We believe” five times.
Here’s what he said:

“Ben, let me add something to that and back up just a bit.
There is an extraordinary breadth and depth and tenure among the Apple executive team. These executives lead over 35,000 employees that I would call all wicked smart. And that’s in all areas of the company from engineering to marketing to operations and sales and all the rest. And the values of our company are extremely well entrenched.
We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We’re constantly focusing on innovating.
We believe in the simple, not the complex.
We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
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.
We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot. And frankly we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company. And we have a self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.
And I think regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well. And I would just reiterate a point Peter made in his opening comments that I strongly believe that Apple is doing the best work in its history.”

(Photo of Tim Cook from Apple.)

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