Apple's Tim Cook has a clear replacement but he's nothing like Steve Jobs

Apple's Tim Cook has a clear replacement but he's nothing like Steve Jobs
August 24th marks eight years since Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple and Tim Cook assumed the position’s full responsibilities. The company has since more than doubled its market value and sold products to millions of customers across the globe. But with growth now slowing, Bloomberg suggests a clear successor to Tim Cook has begun emerging, even though the latter is unlikely to step down anytime soon.

Apple's Jeff Williams is very much like Tim Cook


Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was often considered to be the most important person at Apple after Tim Cook. But following the announcement last month that he was departing the company to start up a design studio, this position appears to have been filled by Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams who is currently seen as the perfect Tim Cook replacement.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, many current and former colleagues described Williams as a “modest, disciplined, demanding leader in the current CEO’s style.” Since taking over the role of COO – a title once held by Tim Cook – he has prioritized operational efficiency and worked closely with suppliers across the globe. Williams has also adopted a more hands-on role when it comes to product development and schedules weekly reviews for future products to track progress and brief CEO Cook of developments. These meetings are officially called New Product Reviews but some employees now call them “Jeff Reviews.”


The COO, just like Cook, is very good at watching and listing to other employees. He has built up the reputation of being soft-spoken but when required, Williams isn’t afraid of asking sharp questions or insisting on further improvements until Apple’s standards are met. This is especially the case when it comes to the design teams. Williams “comes from the operations side, and the metrics being applied there often have very little meaning in design.” Because of this, he isn’t always as understanding when things aren’t up to scratch, although colleagues say he doesn’t quite have the temper of Steve Jobs. Back when Apple was developing AirPods, the executive purposely continued wearing wired EarPods until he was happy with the fit of their wireless counterparts to get his point across rather than creating a storm inside the company.

The original Apple Watch was Williams' biggest test


Williams currently overseers Apple’s entire supply chain, fitness and health research and app development, AppleCare customer support, and the development of all hardware products including the next-gen iPhones. Before taking over as COO, however, Williams primary focus was the first Apple Watch which quickly became his biggest test at the company.

Mere months before the original’s release in April 2015, some employees testing the wearable began reporting allergic reactions to the type of nickel Apple had used. This is a common issue in the watch industry but Williams chose to scrap the thousands of devices that had already been produced in favor of restarting production from scratch with a different metal.

Around this time, the now-COO also had to deal with another issue regarding the company’s Taptic Engine. The feature, which was a priority for Williams and allowed the Watch to vibrate more quietly than the counterpart used inside phones, was prone to corrosion which ultimately led to long-term failure. Instead of shipping the wearables, Williams decided to gift the affected models to employees and fix the issue ahead of release.

The move led to delays and made the Apple Watch difficult to find shortly after launch. Nevertheless, it avoided potentially defective units hitting shelves and was ultimately the right move for consumers.

What does this mean for Apple moving forward?


Over the past few years, Apple has completely transformed the way it operates with the help of Tim Cook. Product design used to be the priority but the company’s operations team now appears to be running the show and influencing every other department. According to a former senior Apple executive, Jeff Williams is “the closest thing at the company to Tim Cook, and you’ll get more of that. If you think Cook is doing a good job, then it’s a good choice.” Another person who knows him said, “Jeff is 95% operations and 5% product.”

This strategy has worked incredibly well for the company over the past few years but, with growth slowing, many now wonder if it’s sustainable. Michael Gartenberg, a former Apple marketing executive, believes “one doesn’t necessarily need a visionary as CEO of Apple as long as there’s a visionary in the company that the CEO can work with. had Jony Ive. The question is, with Ive gone, who is the visionary at the company that can guide the next big thing?”

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31 Comments

1. Fred3

Posts: 576; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

If sales slow down they give you the boot (at least not yet) lol but did they think people will keep wasting money on new product if the old ones still works

2. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Improve your spelling and grammar and you could be the next CEO of Apple.

3. TBomb

Posts: 1653; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I only found 1 error in the comment and that is the 's' at the end of "ones" or "works". Only one word gets the 's'. "Product" can be referring to all of the products as one collective whole in this sentence. But... good to see that you think anyone who has good grammar/spelling is worthy of running your favorite company. With that mindset, it must be the sheeple, and not the products, that make it so successful ;) because it's CLEARLY not the leadership team. Don't patronize someone in the comments for their errors. Not everyone grew up with English as their native language. Even if Fred3 is 100% English speaking, a typo doesn't mean he's deserves your rude comments.

5. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

My comment wasn't rude, you're just butthurt and feel the need to lash out when one of your buddies gets schooled.

6. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Your comment was rude, and it was fueled by your butthurt at a perceived slight of the object of your worship. Not that I'm against it, but at least be honest.

10. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

What specifically was rude teddy? I offered constructive criticism. If anyone was rude, it was you in your reply to me.

11. TBomb

Posts: 1653; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

You can't go from saying you "schooled one of my buddies" in comment 5 to all of the sudden it being "constructive criticism" in comment 10. Just quit being a low-quality human being.

16. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

It seems you are deeply hurt, why I don’t know, nor do I care. Regardless though you need to stop replying to me before you hurt yourself.

13. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

No you didn't, you offered a sarcastic attack because you were upset.

15. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Really teddy? Reread, as many times as you need, my comment, then point out specifically where I was sarcastic or upset.

20. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@apple-rulz: it's hard to say you weren't being sarcastic, as opposed to just making a joke, because we can't see your face or hear your voice. It's the curse of reading text. On a side note: calling tedkord "teddy" is actually rude. You don't know him, so you shouldn't overly familiarize his name. It's almost as if you're making a poor attempt to belittle tedkord. That would be a bad thing for your overall point

22. lyndon420

Posts: 6868; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

@apple-rulz - I think you're upset that Samsung can afford to give out free devices during some of their promotions.

25. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I don't need to reread it, your thoughts aren't that complex or provoking. You were upset at a perceived attack of apple, and so you attacked back at his grammar. You know it, I know it, but you're going to continue playing this stupid game.

29. apple-rulz

Posts: 2198; Member since: Dec 27, 2016

Wow teddy, is that childish retort the best you have?

30. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@#29 apple-rulz: seriously, you should drop the "teddy" thing. Your over familiarization with tedkord makes it seem as if you feel threatened and are trying to feel superior, or you are flirting. I don't think tedkord is interested in either option

18. Vancetastic

Posts: 1710; Member since: May 17, 2017

You need a comma between “rude” and “teddy”.

21. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@vancetastic: maybe he really did want to know what a "rude teddy" was? XD

23. Vancetastic

Posts: 1710; Member since: May 17, 2017

Those Teddy Boys in the early sixties were kinda rude I guess...

26. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Maybe he works on that sentence structure, one day he can be the CEO of Apple.

7. TBomb

Posts: 1653; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Good to see we all have the ability to be mature on this site...

17. Not_Amused321

Posts: 66; Member since: Jan 06, 2013

Iphone 6s still

4. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

Jeff seems promising. I look forward to seeing someone new step in and refresh the company. Cook has always been iffy. In my opinion: anyone could've achieved the same result. Cook had the roadmap from Jobs and the product practically sells itself.

8. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I think Cook has been good for Apple. He stopped the silly lawsuits, and took the iPhone in necessary directions that Jobs' ego kept it from. The only area he fell short in was design - the aesthetic of their products dropped drastically after he took over.

9. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

The only reason the lawsuits stopped is because Apple has good lawyers and cook ride it out. Also he was willing to payout lawsuits to end them. I know jobs had a crazy huge ego, but I had never seen any evidence of it preventing apple from going anywhere. Cook is just trying to maximize profits in any way possible, even at the cost of customer loyalty. I personally don't blame cook for design. The design Dept was still working there. Cook was only responsible for the business side (mostly). I can't put all of the boring design squarely on him, unless there's evidence of him having a heavy hand on design direction. Basically I think Cook played it safe. Too safe.

12. TBomb

Posts: 1653; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I agree with a lot of what you said. One comment: yes, the design team was still working there, but without a vision for a product, it's hard to create something. No one in leadership wanted a revolution. This comment I'm pulling from nowhere but... I wouldn't be surprised if there was a push to minimize the amount of changes in design on purpose for some supply chain reason. Like: if we don't change the design for an additional 2 years, you give us a $0.30 discount per piece since you don't have to change up your production line for an additional 2 years. Not sure if it could work that way, but if someone could play that card, it's Apple.

14. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Jobs'ego absolutely hindered the progress that that was later achieved under Cook. Jobs refused to believe the market could move on without Apple. It did, and Apple wound up following rather than leaving.

19. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@ Tbomb: I agree with you 100% @tedkord: I'm not too sure about that. Not that I'm saying you're wrong, I'm just saying that jobs ran things when there were more limitations. Cook stepped in and essentially had more freedom, but chose not to do anything with it

27. tedkord

Posts: 17456; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Jobs kept the phone smaller, and kept many of the advancements of other devices off it because he couldn't accept that anyone by Apple could dictate to the market. He focused more energy on crying that everyone was stealing from him (while his entire career was based in theft) than on advancing the platform. It was basically a replay of the mac/pc.

31. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@tedkord: This! Lol, yeah, when you put it that way. That definitely sounds like him and the culture that followed him and that legacy

24. machtige

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 23, 2019

What I understand from “one doesn’t necessarily need a visionary as CEO of Apple as long as there’s a visionary in the company that the CEO can work with. had Jony Ive. The question is, with Ive gone, who is the visionary at the company that can guide the next big thing?” is that a product-involved one (E.g. Jony Ive) could come up with a product/design and the executive team, including Tim Cook, just can say no. And that’s one reason why a company does need a visionary as CEO. This what I’ve just described happened with iPhone SE 2. And I’m worried that when Jeff becomes CEO (like in 10-20 years from now) it’ll be the same. That nobody would care about products. That everyone cares about profits and raises products prices. I don’t want that all over again. Okay, a visionary can work with a CEO, but the CEO can limit the visionary, like Cook does. When the visionary is CEO, he/she has full power to decide what is going to happen. As a commenter described, Cook has a lot of power to create new, revolutionary and gorgeous products. But the problem is that Cook doesn’t want to use that power. I agree with that. Cook is a great CEO, and he would be perfect if he would take advantage of the “product power” he has as CEO of Apple.

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