Steve Jobs's Greatest Creation May Be New Apple CEO Tim Cook

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Cook is not Jobs. But he did learn from the master. And as acting boss, he has already presided over a string of successes.

SteveJobsReutersII-Post.jpg

Sitting outside of a bar in Washington, D.C., a couple of hours ago, I received a string of emails from my editors here alerting me to the fact that Steve Jobs had resigned from his position as the CEO of Apple, a position he has held for almost exactly 14 years now -- if you don't count the first time he did it. You see, this wasn't Jobs's first big move -- and it won't be his last either. The man credited with Apple's move into the stratosphere has left a legacy that endures.

Steve Jobs didn't step down. And Tim Cook didn't step up. Not today, anyway.

Tomorrow, Apple will be the same company that it was yesterday, that it was this morning. With after-hours trading rocky, the company's stock will probably open lower than it closed, but it will still be one of the most valuable companies the world has ever seen. And I imagine it won't take too long for investors to realize that and for the stock to recover. The iPhone 5 will come out in October, the rumored new line of Macs will continue to be talked about, and the wheels will turn as they always have.

Steve Jobs didn't step down. And Tim Cook didn't step up. Not today, anyway.

Steve Jobs has been unhealthy for years, diagnosed way back in 2004 with a rare form of pancreatic cancer that few survive. It was then that the biggest newspapers started to keep his obituary updated in their drawers, then that bloggers started wondering about what Apple would look like post-Jobs. But here's the kicker: It will look remarkably like it looked during-Jobs.

Which is why I was a little shocked to log in to my Twitter account after seeing those emails and finding the thousand-plus people I follow filling my feed with messages of shock and sadness. Like John Gruber at Daring Fireball, I agree that this is shocking, if not unexpected. But it's anything but sad. This is Apple's moment. For at least the past ten years, since the debut of the original iPod in October 2001, we have expected Apple to succeed, we have expected every product to be polished and replaced with a more-perfect model of perfect about once every six months or so. Now, we're watching. And we're waiting for Tim Cook to fail. He's not Steve Jobs, the critics say. This company is doomed.

They're half right. Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. But he did learn from the best how to emulate him. And if he was going to fail, he already would have. Cook has been acting CEO of Apple since January, when Jobs went on his third medical leave from the company. Yes, it was that long ago. He presided over the latest Mac refresh, over the launch of the iPad 2, over the announcement of the iCloud, and even over that moment, about two weeks ago, when Apple's market cap exceeded that of oil-services giant Exxon, making it number one.

Image: Reuters.


From The Atlantic, June 2009: Do CEO's Matter?

Steve Jobs, Apple's ailing CEO, is scheduled to return to work this month after a six-month leave, but investors are feeling skittish. Every time he sneezes, shares of Apple catch a cold. Can a CEO -- even one as talented and visionary as Jobs -- really make or break a corporation? Many business scholars have grown skeptical of the idea of chief executive as superhero. Cutting-edge research reveals that while some CEOs clearly do make a big difference, many are merely the most visible cogs in complex machines.

Read the full story here.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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