This weekend marks the three year anniversary of the passing of Steve Jobs, and even as history works to sort out the particulars of his long term legacy, his company Apple continues on without him. Tim Cook, who silently co-ran Apple with Jobs for fourteen years, took the reins at Apple shortly before Jobs died. One of his earliest tasks on the job was to introduce the iPhone 4S while Steve Jobs was on his death bed; he passed the next day. Since that time, the company has increasingly become Cook’s baby. Here’s a look at the highs and lows of the Tim Cook era at Apple Incorporated.
Defining product change: After initially punting with an iPhone 5 and 5S which looked a lot like previous generations, Tim Cook finally unveiled the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and shook things up entirely. There has been plenty of speculation as to whether Steve Jobs would ever have released such a product, as Jobs long posited that four inches was the ideal screen size for a smartphone. But Jobs was known to change course on his vision as needed, albeit grudgingly and about a year after he probably should have. In that sense, Cook has pretty much followed that same stubborn, but ultimately not inflexible, path.
Defining behind the scenes change: Jobs loved software engineer Scott Forstall, and had him more or less running the software side of the company. But nearly everyone else in Apples upper echelons seemed to despise Forstall, and once key executives started leaving over it, Tim Cook made the bold move of firing him in order to keep the rest of the team intact. It’s a move that Jobs probably would not have made. But Cook did put another beloved Jobs protege, Jony Ive, in charge of software vision instead.
Signature product: The early knock on Tim Cook was that in his first two years on the job, Apple was steady but didn’t release any game changers. He kept claiming that secrets abounded in the pipeline that weren’t ready yet- and eventually he proved it by unveiling the Apple Watch, the first smart watch that anyone outside of the geek world cares about. Cook says the product was three years in development. That means if Steve Jobs was involved with the product at all, it was only to sign off on the initial schematics; every crucial product decision made along the way during development was made by Cook after Jobs passed away. That makes Apple Watch the first true Tim Cook product.