updated 07:26 pm EST, Wed December 19, 2012
Apple CEO inherited challenging job, long shadow
On Wednesday, Time Magazine named US President Barack Obama as its "Person of the Year," but had also considered the contribution made by Apple and its CEO Tim Cook, ultimately placing him third on the list, along with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, scientist Fabioloa Gianotti, and Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai. The magazine also profiled Cook, reiterating many of the highlights and quotes Cook had given in previous interviews, including his prime-time chat with Rock Center host Brian Williams earlier this month.
Cook was likely considered for the honor because of the enormous challenge that he took on when he became Apple CEO in August of last year. Though he had already served as interim CEO during Steve Jobs' occasional health-related leaves of absence -- and was already well-regarded as a top operations manager -- Cook was taking over and becoming truly responsible for the most valuable publicly-traded company on the planet. It would be his job now to deal with shareholder pressures, pundit manipulations and public expectations for a company that is not just popula -- it has weaved itself into the very fabric of modern living, exerting an influence so deep that it even affects those consumers who do not buy its products.
Under tremendous pressure to keep Apple innovating, productive, profitable and ahead of its rivals, in his first year he has largely succeeded on those goals. Though the only completely new product to emerge on his watch so far is the iPad mini, other new products appear to be in the pipeline (including the alleged Apple-developed HDTV). To the surprise of many, the iPad mini looks to become Apple's next biggest-seller behind the iPhone. Cook has also overseen a number of technological innovations that rely as heavily on suppliers and manufacture as they do on design, and has led an executive shakeup that many Apple watchers think will reinvigorate the company over time.
Though the company has seen recent manipulations and other events drag down its stock price, Apple is still the most profitable company -- by far -- in the electronics sector, the single most popular brand of tablet, smartphone, music device and portable computer, and has seen substantial increases in Mac ownership. Though not every venture has been entirely successful -- many would point to Apple's Maps project as a product that under-performed on its debut, though it has been steadily improving -- the company is still seen as taking risks and experimenting with other ideas for both services and products.
Under Cook's first year, AAPL rose almost 40 percent (from a year ago at $382.11 to today's close of $526.31 -- even though the current figure is down significantly from its $700 high point -- and no serious analyst believes Apple will have anything less than another record quarter for its fiscal Q1 2013, which ends with the calendar year. The company has grown from averaging $25 billion per quarter in 2011 to nearly $37 billion per quarter (average) in 2012, with an expectation that the company will average $50 billion in quarterly revenue across 2013. The company has at least quadrupled in size and earnings across the last five years, under challenging worldwide economic conditions.
While the other candidates on the list have all contributed something that has shaped the world in perhaps more direct ways, Cook's team at Apple have been more quietly shaping the way most people in the developed world live their lives. Innovations such as iMessage, Thunderbolt, AirPlay and all-day battery life -- all three pioneered through Apple along with other partners -- have had a fundamental impact on business, industry and consumer life and work. As Doctor Who music director and playwright Murray Gold recently told an interviewer, "this technology allows me to work anywhere and do anything I need to do. It's a tremendous gift of freedom."