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8/27/2011
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Gina Smith
Gina Smith
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Apple CEO Tim Cook: The Truth

You say Goodbye. I say Hello.

Apple Chief Tim Cook begins his first official day at Apple this week. And the industry, Wall Street and the world's largest enterprise shops will be watching Cook with eagle eyes.

They want to know the real Tim Cook. What drives him. They want to know whether he'll carry along or, try something way out there. What to expect of Tim Cook?

Naturally, speculation runs rampant. Often described as inscrutable, quiet, serious and conservative, an operations guy taking over Apple does seem a stretch at first. But recall he's served as interim CEO a few times now over the last few years. For all intents and purposes, he has been the No. 2 guy at Apple for years now.

And Steve Jobs tapped him, right? If he marches with Jobs -- in terms of aesthetic, value, innovation, signature style Apple touches -- certainly that should satisfy the fanbase.

But here's the truth. We don't know. I don't know. I've read 100 pages of public documents on him. I could tell you his net worth probably down to the dollar and what dorm he lived in at Auburn, but I don't know him.

Jobs chose an insider to follow him. And we're waiting for that insider to come forth. I know BYTE readers want to know all they can about the new Apple chief -- you don't want to wait until I nab the interview.

So in brief, here are some things we are fairly certain about Tim Cooks going in. For one thing, we've met Steve Jobs and he is no Steve Jobs, to quote a senator. This isn't your master of ceremonies type CEO. He's all business. Don't expect him to assume rockstar proportions, as Jobs he has done in the video, below.

That was Jobs. This is Cook. An interrogator. A collector of data. A fierce negotiator. Jobs sent him out in 1998 to downward-negotiate all the parts vendors.

Those who know him describe his gaze as seering. In stark contrast to Jobs, Cook never raises his voice.

Cook came along at just the right time. Jobs on his return to Apple needed someone to trim inventory fat -- and 12-year IBM veteran Cook trimmed and then slashed some, too.

The mission was to dump all flailing inventory.

Cook utterly impressed Jobs, Jobs has said in interviews. Cutting aggressive deals with Asian factories and mercilessly slashing Apple lines and inventory, the clean up worked.

That set Apple up financially and steadied it -- giving Jobs the platform he needed to hit home runs with iTunes, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Jobs for years has pointed to Cook as being his go-to guy, the main operations guy who keeps the works greased up. As COO, according to freely available government filing docs, Cook was the highest paid executive at Apple when he was promoted last week.

All the documents I reviewed are publicly available.

Cook, a true Southerner, says please and thank you. He is polite to the point of seeming distant, one Apple employee who works with him at Apple told BYTE.

Maybe so, but he has no trouble talking on his feet. You get a real flavor for him in the video, below.

But as Southerners like me know, you can hide a lot behind a smile and Southern charm. Ex-employees speaking on and off the record, say Cook is often aggressive, demanding and hard on his direct reports. Relentless was the adjective I heard most in my reporting.

Jobs and Cook are by all accounts more alike than they appear. And they love their Dylan. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told me he and Jobs were huge Bob Dylan fans and that it bonded them. Cook is a fan, too.

Here is talking about Bob Dylan at a 1984 Apple shareholders meeting.

So far, Cook is insisting to Apple that things will not change under his watch. After all he is still reporting to Apple Chair Steve Jobs -- a CEO reports to the Board, the Chairman of the Board, in particular. I agree with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak that Apple won't change much in the short to medium term no matter who is at the helm. Apple is a humming machine.

Then again, there's always the printer business. BYTE will sit down with Tim Cook, soon. Stay tuned.

Below is the note Cook sent out to all employees at Apple. Nothing will change, he says. But isn't Apple all about change? Time will tell -- follow BYTE for our continuing coverage.

From Tim Cook:

Team:

I am looking forward to the amazing opportunity of serving as CEO of the most innovative company in the world. Joining Apple was the best decision I’ve ever made and it’s been the privilege of a lifetime to work for Apple and Steve for over 13 years. I share Steve’s optimism for Apple’s bright future.

Steve has been an incredible leader and mentor to me, as well as to the entire executive team and our amazing employees. We are really looking forward to Steve’s ongoing guidance and inspiration as our Chairman.

I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change. I cherish and celebrate Apple's unique principles and values. Steve built a company and culture that is unlike any other in the world and we are going to stay true to that—it is in our DNA. We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

I love Apple and I am looking forward to diving into my new role. All of the incredible support from the Board, the executive team and many of you has been inspiring. 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.

Tim

I smell a disconnect. Or maybe it's just me. Change must continue at Apple for it to survive as we know it, anyway. Do you agree? Email me.

Based in San Francisco, Gina Smith is editor in chief of BYTE. Email her at Gina@BYTE.com or follow her @ginasmith888

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