In January, when Jobs stepped away from his company for health reasons, Tim Cook, COO of Apple, was tapped to be the interim CEO. Cook has been a good choice to handle the day-to-day operation of the company but he hasn't done the same sorts of things Apple supporters are used to seeing Jobs do.
Tim Cook hasn't been flashy; he's been a good manager and kept the Good Ship Apple charted along a steady course. And that is in direct contrast to Jobs and the style the co-founder brings to the Cupertino Crew.
A telling example is this month's World Wide Developer's Conference. Aside from dropping the prices on the MacBook Pro line of notebooks, nothing Apple did really sent ripples through the industry. The iPhone 3G S is essentially the 3G with a nitro burst. The iPhone OS 3.0 may be more exciting that the hardware itself.
Cook didn't even deliver the keynote.
When Jobs left Apple to convalesce the company said he would retain an "active role in major strategic decisions" while he was away. But just how active a role could Jobs realistically play when it turns out he had a liver transplant in the past few months?
Rather than using Jobs as a spring board for the past six months, Apple has been playing it safe under the leadership of Cook. And, really, that is not a terrible thing -- it just highlights the differences in leadership characteristics between the two men.
But with Jobs back it seems likely that Apple will step out again and play things a little less conservatively. The iPhone 3G S has, of course, been a hit, selling over one million units in its first weekend. By those standards, it is impossible to call it anything less than a success would be incorrect " even though it has been overheating.
So the question remains: where does Steve Jobs' return leave Tim Cook? There is already speculation floating around that Cook may bolt. After all, he has just completed one of the most high profile CEO try-outs in the history of business. Undoubtedly there are a few companies out there that would like to have him run the show.
But it seems unlikely that Cook will leave. He appears to be too good a number two to Jobs. So while Jobs may get the glory, ultimately it's Cook that keeps the company running " even if he isn't flashy.
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