Apple: Jobs Steps Down, Cook Steps Up

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Steve Jobs’ resignation was inevitable, but still came as a shock. Eric Doyle looks at what Jobs has achieved and what the future holds.

Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple after a long and eventful career with the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak in the 1970s.

He holds the distinction of being at the cutting edge of ICT developments for 36 years, from the 1975 release of the Apple 1 to the current wave of success with the iPad tablet and iPhone smartphone.

Jobs’ mercurial personality has always been a source of friction with those around him and has, at times, been his undoing. The counterbalance of his charismatic presentation skills has played a large part in making Apple now the largest company in the world – or at least running neck and neck with oil company Exxon.

To see Apple in pole position today is stunning and to have predicted the company’s current leading role just five years ago would have brought hoots of derision. Then came the iPod music player’s chatty friend, the iPhone, followed by the iPad – all portable devices with advanced features and eye-candy design features.

For much of its existence, Apple has been viewed as a niche product company. Despite doing much to trigger the personal computer industry with the successful Apple II in 1977, Jobs insisted that Apple’s products would be distinctively designed, using high quality components, and he guarded his products with a fierce, proprietary zeal.

Even during the decade he was ousted from the company by CEO John Sculley and the Apple board, he formed NeXT which produced beautifully designed computers at prices few seemed willing to pay.While NeXT disappeared, it made a contribution: it is worth remembering that a young Tim Berners Lee developed the basics of the World Wide Web on a NeXT box, at CERN.

In his years outside Apple, Jobs also bought into Pixar which ultimately resulted in the first fully computer-generated feature length cartoon, Toy Story.

On his return to Apple in 1996, he brought with him the NeXTSTEP operating system from the failed computer company and had it turned into OS X. At this time Apple was literally hanging on to its existence but Jobs’ energy as CEO put it back on course.

Then came the iPod in 2001 which not only established Apple in the consumer market but also overtook Apple’s computer revenues. The rest is history but the story came to a comma if not a fullstop with Jobs’ announcement of his semi-retirement.

Jobs has been ill since he developed a form of pancreatic cancer, a neuroendocrine tumor, in 2003. As is often the case with this kind of tumor, he had a liver transplant and, over time this can have repercussions. When he withdrew from daily involvement with Apple last January, no details were given but, obviously, his health has yet to improve and he considers himself no longer able to perform his duties.

Cook – a more reserved character

This has thrust Tim Cook into the spotlight as the new CEO – though he has had long spells as acting CEO during Jobs’ absences. Although Cook is a much more reserved character than Jobs, he has been behind the quiet revolution that saw Apple switch from being a manufacturer to being more of a marketing company that farms out product manufacture to third-party companies. This saw the company reduce its inventory and improve margins across its product lines.

It would seem that Cook is a safe pair of hands and shares in Apple have only dipped, rather than tumbled, since Jobs’ resignation was announced. The true test will come when it is time to drive the company forward. Cook is not known as a visionary but he is a level-headed businessman who is capable of executing Jobs’ blueprint for the immediate future.

Longer term, there have been rumours that Apple will move into a new range of products in the coming years and Jobs’ steering hand is still on the tiller as chairman. It is not time for market jitters yet and Steve Jobs’ presence will calm any fears. It is likely to be business as usual at the Cupertino headquarters until the day that Jobs ends his involvement with Apple.

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