If the past is any indication, Tim Cook's mastery of inventory management and his high expectations of employees should leave Apple Inc. in good hands while its charismatic leader, Steve Jobs, takes a medical leave of absence.
Apple said Monday that Cook, the chief operating officer, will take charge of the iPhone and iPad maker as Jobs focuses on his health. Unlike Jobs' half-year medical leave in 2009, during which he specified he'd return to work at the end of June and stuck to it, Apple did not say when, if ever, Jobs would return as CEO.
That means Cook, 50, considered a logical eventual successor to Jobs, 55, could be in charge for a long time, perhaps permanently.
Jobs has been Apple's public face and pitchman, making gadgets such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad household names. Jobs pulled Apple back from the brink of financial disaster after returning to the company in 1997 following a 12-year hiatus. He has become the heart of Apple, such that investors send shares tumbling on every bit of news or rumor of his ailing health.
But Jobs is not the only executive pivotal to Apple's successes.