Tim Cook today marks 10 years as Apple CEO.
He may be one of the highest-profile figures in technology today, but Cook was little-known outside of Silicon Valley at the time of his appointment, having previously been Apple’s chief operations officer.
The aura, mystique, and creativity of Steve Jobs meant that his successor, whoever that was going to be, would face a mammoth task winning round Apple’s core fans.
On August 24, 2011, Steve Jobs resigned as Apple CEO. From the company announcement at the time:
Apple’s Board of Directors today announced that Steve Jobs has resigned as Chief Executive Officer, and the Board has named Tim Cook, previously Apple’s Chief Operating Officer, as the company’s new CEO. Jobs has been elected Chairman of the Board and Cook will join the Board, effective immediately.
At the time, Art Levinson said on behalf of Apple’s board:
The Board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO. Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.
On August 25, 2011,Cook moved to assure employees of his intentions to stay true to Apple’s traditions.
“Apple is not going to change,” he wrote in an internal email. “I am confident our best years lie ahead of us and that together we will continue to make Apple the magical place that it is.”
Apple is, of course, operating on an entirely different scale these days.
Cook has overseen the launch of new product categories in the Apple Watch and AirPods, and new services like Apple Pay, and under his stewardship Apple became the world’s first trillion dollar company — up from about $350 billion USD at the time of Cook’s appointment.
Interviewers often ask Cook whether corporate leaders should take a stance on public policy, and his willingness to go against the grain where other business executives remain silent could be the greatest part of his legacy.
“Apple is about changing the world,” Cook said at Fortune’s CEO Initiative in 2018. “It became clear to me some number of years ago that you don’t do that by staying quiet on things that matter.”