Tim Cook Named TIME Person of the Year Runner-Up
Dec 20, 2012 11:26 AM PT
Apple CEO Tim Cook was named a runner-up in TIME Magazine's Person of the Year listing, after he spent 2012 overseeing significant financial gains and product refreshes in the wake of the death of his company's iconic leader, Steve Jobs.
President Obama earned the top honor, but Cook nabbed one of the four runner-up spots for his role in raising the company's market valuation and expanding its presence in China.
Even following the current stock dip, Apple maintains its status as the world's most valuable company. It is also sitting on a cash pile expected to be more than US$120 billion.
TIME's Lev Grossman called Tim Cook's "thorough, systematic" product upgrades and financial gains of 2012 "historic," noting he filled predecessor Steve Jobs' big shoes in a "slow and soft-spoken" way that Jobs couldn't have recreated.
Cook's biggest 2012 success story could be Apple's presence in China, according to TIME. The CEO has personally interacted with manufacturing executives there, something Jobs never did, and the brand has seen significant growth. Police had to break up riots in the streets when the iPhone 4 launched in January, and when the iPhone 5 was released last week it sold 2 million units in three days.
The company's overall Chinese revenue grew by $10 billion on the year, and Cook has said he believes it will be the company's largest market over time.
Not Without Challenges
Apple launched the much-hyped iPhone 5 in September and followed it up about a month later by debuting its first smaller tablet, the iPad mini. Still, 2012 hasn't been without bumps.
The iPhone 5 release was marred by the Maps debacle, sparked by the ditching of Google Maps in favor of its own, underdeveloped mapping application. It was highly criticized for incorrect directions, and Apple eventually encouraged users to download competing apps until it could upgrade the feature.
Though both the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini ended up having stellar opening weeks, current demand has indicated it might not bring the record numbers that the iPhone 4 or third-generation iPad did.
The company's stock has been tumbling from its market highs for the past few weeks, reflecting the possible slow sales. It dropped to $500 this week for the first time since February.
In addition, Apple has been waging global patent war on many tech adversaries, most notably Samsung. Although it came out on top in a high-profile U.S. case, many investors have been exasperated by the costly and seemingly never-ending battles, labeling them a drain on company resources.
In a few of these instances, however, Cook has taken the opportunity to display a change in Apple leadership and culture. While Jobs was famously averse to public apologies or admitting failures, Cook issued a letter to consumers saying he was sorry for releasing Apple Maps too early.
"Steve Jobs would never have apologized," Jeff Kagan, tech analyst and consultant, told MacNewsWorld. "Then again, Steve Jobs would never had let something so bad go out the door either. Tim Cook is blazing new trails at Apple and the marketplace simply does not know how to take it yet."
Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
Where's the New Stuff?
While Cook may be blazing new trails with operational duties, naming him a TIME Person of the Year runner-up is giving him too much credit, said Trip Chowdhry, senior analyst for Global Equities Research. Apple doesn't need someone to oversee product refreshes, he noted, it needs someone to continue the company's history of developing blockbuster products that nobody even knew they wanted.
"The important data for looking at the company long term isn't where the stock was when Jobs left and where the stock is today, it's what Apple has done over the past 12 months," Chowdhry told MacNewsWorld. "That's not much. You shrink your iPad and you call it innovation? You stretch your iPhone 4S and call it an iPhone 5? You screw up on Maps because you're trying to launch an incomplete product too quickly? It doesn't add up with the formula that made Apple a darling, which is being user-centric, out-imagining everyone and making innovation an American phenomenon."
A better man for the award would have been Google CEO Larry Page, said Chowdhry, for overseeing a 2012 of innovations such as Project Glass. The product is far from perfect, Chowdhry acknowledged. The effort put into making glasses that could change the way people see the world demonstrates a company culture committed to using bold, fresh ideas to solve large-scale problems, though.
"Those are the kind of ideas that need to be encouraged," Chowdhry noted. "Steve Jobs didn't oversee product refreshes, he drove his workers to innovation. Cook might be doing ok, but if he wants to keep Apple the company that it was when Jobs died, he is going to have to figure out a way to keep out-imagining the world."