On Tim Cook’s first full day on the job as the new chief executive of Apple, he wasted little time tackling the questions troubling many of the technology company’s more than 46,000 employees.
“I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change,” Mr Cook wrote in an e-mail to the workforce on Thursday. “We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.”
It was not entirely true: Apple without Steve Jobs, one of the most admired technology and business leaders in recent history, will be a different company.
Mr Jobs was the public face of a company that considers its image to be an integral part of its operation. He combined a broad strategic vision with obsessive attention to detail: for example, on one occasion he ignored the substance of an internal presentation about new software, but criticised the size of the icons it displayed.
Mr Jobs has been the charismatic, if mercurial, master of all things Apple since he returned in 1997 to rescue the company he co-founded from near-bankruptcy.
Apple’s board, which Mr Jobs now chairs, signalled its confidence in 50-year-old Mr Cook by awarding him one of the largest stock grants in history. Valued at $383m by Friday’s closing price, half of the 1m in restricted shares disclosed on Friday will be his in five years if he remains at Apple, the rest in 2021. That grant is 10 times larger than most of Apple’s previous contributions and would dwarf a grant made to him last year valued at $52m.
Mr Cook has big shoes to fill, but several Apple veterans say he is well equipped for the task.
This is in no small part due to his predecessor’s commitment to building a strong team, which Mr Cook acknowledged in his note to the troops. “Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that – it is in our DNA,” he wrote. The message rang true, with some staff reported to have wept at their desks.
Mr Cook is famously unemotional – a dry man who when displeased favours a tough stare through his wire-rimmed glasses instead of a raised voice. He is an ardent fan of the Auburn university football team in his native Alabama.
In a speech last year, Mr Cook said the greatest realisation in his life was the importance of gut instinct. Although he laboured a dozen years at IBM as part of a methodical career path that led to supply chain management at once-leading PC maker Compaq, Mr Cook took a great risk in succumbing to Mr Jobs’ entreaties and joining a struggling Apple in 1998.
Staff at Auburn university told the FT Mr Cook comes across as humble (in contrast to the self-confident Mr Jobs), and ascribes his success to luck as much as hard work. He lives in a modest rented house in Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, decorated with Auburn memorabilia.
Former Apple executives say this humility should help guide Mr Cook as he looks to the creative input of other team members, including hardware designer Jonathan Ive, mobile software head Scott Forstall and marketing chief Phil Schiller.
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