Tim Cook As Apple CEO Has Proved the Steve Jobs Acolytes Wrong

On Tuesday, August 24, Tim Cook completed a decade as the chief executive of Apple.

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.

During Jobs leave of absence in 2011, Cook assumed his day-to-day responsibilities and was universally considered a safe, solid pair of hands.

Apple's lukewarm press release announcing Cook's appointment hailed his "outstanding performance...remarkable talent and sound judgment," in contrast to Jobs' "extraordinary vision and leadership" and "unique insights, creativity and inspiration."

This was the heyday of the iPod, the iPhone and the recently released iPad, and Apple was well on its way to becoming the most valuable consumer-facing brand in the world.

The company, therefore, could hardly have been in better shape, but with that came impossible expectations.

Right from the beginning, there was rampant speculation about a supposed "brain drain" that was being led by Steve Jobs loyalists. And there were fears that Cook lacked the charisma and imagination to keep Apple at the top.

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."

On the same day, Apple's share price fell by 5 percent, wiping around $10 billion off the company's value.

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 at the time of Cook's appointment.

There have been several misses along the way too—the underwhelming Apple Music, Apple TV Plus and Apple Card among them—but a lack of ambition certainly hasn't been the problem many had feared.

Cook, who is by nature a private man, also transcended the worlds of technology and business when he revealed his sexuality in an interview in 2014, becoming a role model and a cultural icon.

"I don't consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I've benefited from the sacrifice of others," he said at the time.

"So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy."

He has also thrown his weight behind environmental and social issues, and is a vocal advocate for privacy, as demonstrated during Apple's encryption dispute with the FBI.

Apple's Tim Cook making a peace sign.
Apple CEO Tim Cook attends Apple's "Ted Lasso" Season 2 Premiere in West Hollywood, California, on July 15, 2021. Cook, the company's former COO, has now been at the helm for a decade. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic