updated 02:28 am EST, Wed November 14, 2012
Ongoing success with iPhone, iPad allowed Apple to redefine industry
The iPhone, Apple's single largest-selling product and the device that completely redefined the mobile industry, has helped catapult CEO Tim Cook to the top of Fierce Wireless' 25 Most Powerful People in Wireless survey. Cook was ranked just above Google's Larry Page and the CEOs of all four major US wireless carriers, among others in the industry. Together, Apple and Samsung garner more than 100 percent of the cell phone industry's profits, and the iPhone remains the single most popular brand in the industry.
Indeed, the iPhone is so popular that it now makes up two-thirds of Apple's profits, and was responsible for over $30 billion in profits during fiscal 2012. According to Fierce Wireless, 77 percent of all smartphones sold by AT&T are iPhones, though they account for smaller percentages of sales at other carriers. While sales of Android phones in total significantly outsell the three existing iPhone models, the Android brand is spread among several hundred models available from dozens of carriers.
In addition, Apple dominates the tablet market, and its iPad line shows several orders of magnitude higher use when it comes to Internet and wireless media consumption compared to the still-nascent Android tablet industry. Cook's influence on the wireless industry, as head of Apple, is considerably more powerful than even the CEOs of the major carriers, who were ranked third (Verizon), fourth (AT&T), fifth (Sprint), and sixth (T-Mobile) respectively. Just a single decision by Apple -- for example, to implement the free iMessage service that circumvents carriers' profitable SMS business -- can have major implications for the entire wireless industry.
Rounding out the top 10 in the survey were Amazon's Jeff Bezos, JK Shin of Samsung Mobile, and the chairmen of Qualcomm and Dish Network. Other well-known tech executives such as Stephen Elop of Nokia and Thorsten Heines of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion barely made it into the top 25 -- a sign of their waning influence in the industry. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft and Nokia's leading partner in its phone business, was ranked at number 17.
Cook will be under tremendous pressure in the years ahead to defend Apple against competitors, both in terms of sales and against patent-infringing "fast follower" attempts, such as the tactics used by Samsung which cost it a billion-dollar judgement. He is also expected to continue the innovation that Apple has fostered over the past decade or more - - both in continuing to refine existing iOS and Mac products and, eventually, shepherding new industry-defining devices to market.