Why Apple investors shouldn't fear Tim Cook

The soft-spoken, slightly reserved Southerner is ready for the biggest job in Silicon Valley.

By TheStreet Staff Aug 25, 2011 11:59AM

By James Rogers, TheStreet

 

Tim Cook has an unenviable task filling Steve Jobs' New Balance sneakers, although Apple (AAPL) investors have little to fear from the soft-spoken, slightly reserved Southerner who now has the highest-profile job in Silicon Valley.

 

Inevitably, Apple will miss Jobs' genius for innovation and predicting the next big thing in consumer technology, but Cook's talents should not be underestimated.

 

While Jobs is widely regarded as a visionary, Cook has developed impressive skills working behind the scenes at Apple. As an IT operations maven, Cook has expertise that will prove crucial in helping Apple roll out its ambitious cloud strategy.

 

Launched at Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in June, iCloud paved the way for a host of services such as streaming media, storing data and connecting users via a messaging system. The push into high-margin services is critically important for Apple, enabling the tech heavyweight to offset any future declines in demand for gadgets

 

The services onslaught, however, requires serious IT infrastructure, an area in which Cook has a wealth of knowledge thanks to his years as Apple's operating chief.

 

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Investors can also take solace from Cook's reputation as a safe pair of hands, as he has proved on three separate occasions when Jobs was out on medical leave of absence.

 

Like Jobs, Cook is very much an Apple insider, boasting an intimate knowledge of what makes the tech giant tick. As COO, he successfully managed the company's sprawling supply chain, its sales activities, and service and support across all markets and geographies.

 

A graduate of Auburn University with an MBA from Duke, Cook held stints at Compaq and IBM (IBM) before joining Apple as senior vice president of operations in 1998. His success in this role and his subsequent job as executive vice president of worldwide sales and operations led to his promotion to COO in 2005.

Apple investors, though, will have to get used to a different style of leadership. Whereas Job was renowned for his showmanship and fiery rhetoric, Cook has a much more restrained persona. Apple zealots, who have come to expect bravura performances and snarky competitor-bashing at the company's gadget launches, must now get used to a less flamboyant figurehead.

 

With a new iPhone expected in the coming weeks, though, Cook will have an early opportunity to show the fanboys what he can do.

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