For both men, Jobs's new appointment as chairman wasn't an honorary title or something to keep the shareholders happy; it was a real, honest-to-goodness job that would allow him to oversee and steer Apple's future direction. As David Pogue, technology writer for the New York Times and Yahoo, wrote, "You can bet that as chairman, Mr. Jobs will still be the godfather. He'll still be pulling plenty of strings, feeding his vision to his carefully built team, and weighing in on the company's compass headings." Jobs had already left Apple once—and now that he'd made it into one of the most innovative companies in the world, he wasn't about to do so again.
As Jobs and Cook discussed CEO succession on that momentous day in August, Cook brought up Steve's "godfather" role. The pair chatted about how they'd work together in their new positions, not realizing quite how close to death Steve actually was. "I thought...he was going to live a lot longer," said Cook, reflecting back on the conversation. "We got into a whole level of discussion about what would it mean for me to be CEO with him as chairman," he recalled.
When Jobs said, "You make all the decisions," Cook suspected something was wrong. Jobs would never have handed over the reins willingly. So Cook "tried to pick something that would incite him," asking questions like, "You mean that if I review an ad, and I like it, it should just run without your okay?" Jobs laughed and said, "Well, I hope you'd at least ask me!" Cook "asked him two or three times, 'Are you sure you want me to do this?'" He was prepared for Jobs to step back in if need be, because he "saw him getting better at that point in time."
Jobs's reply to the question about the ad was revealing. He was famously meddlesome in nature, one of the main reasons why Cook assumed he would continue to oversee Apple, even if Cook was now officially in charge of running the day-to-day—though he had largely been doing this for several years already in his role as COO, while Jobs was still CEO. And despite stepping away from all formal responsibility, Jobs did remain very much a part of the company. Cook kept him involved, going "over [to his house] often during the week, and sometimes on the weekends. Every time I saw him he seemed to be getting better. He felt that way as well." Both Jobs and Apple's PR team continued to deny that he was in ill health—no one would admit that he was close to death. But, "unfortunately, it didn't work out that way," Cook said, and Jobs's death stunned the world only a few months later.
COOK THE CIPHER
When it came to picking a successor to Jobs, there were rumors that the Apple board was likely to choose someone from outside the company, but this was never actually the case. The board was Jobs's board, sometimes controversially so, and they were always going to accept whomever Jobs picked for the role. Jobs wanted an insider who "got" Apple's culture, and he believed there was no one who fit the bill more perfectly than Cook, the man he had trusted to run Apple in his absence on two previous occasions.
Cook, who had been running Apple behind the scenes for so many years, was Jobs's natural successor, but to many onlookers his ascendance to the CEO position was surprising. No one outside Apple or even inside the company would have considered him a visionary, the type of leader whom Jobs had epitomized and everyone assumed Apple needed. It was widely accepted that after Jobs, the next most visionary person at Apple was not Cook but instead chief designer Jony Ive.
After all, no one else had Ive's operational power or experience—he had worked hand in glove with Jobs since the days of the first- generation iMac. Together, the pair had spent a decade and more refashioning Apple into a design-led organization. Ive had a cult status of his own, having been the face of many Apple products in promotional videos. For his design on the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Ive had won many high-profile awards, and as a consequence he was well known to the public. In contrast, Cook was a much more shadowy figure. He'd never appeared in any product videos and had presented at Apple's product launches on only a few occasions when Jobs was ill. He had given almost no interviews over his career and had been the subject of only a smattering of magazine articles (none of which he participated in). He was largely unknown.
But although some people thought Ive was in a strong position to succeed Jobs, having been so pivotal to Apple's vision and products, he had no interest in running a business. He wanted to continue designing—at Apple he had every designer's dream job: limitless resources and creative freedom. He wasn't going to sacrifice such a rare and liberating position for the management headaches that inevitably come with running an entire company.
Another possible candidate rumored by outside media pundits was Scott Forstall, an ambitious executive who was then in the role of senior vice president of iOS software. Forstall had climbed the leadership ladder at Apple with high-profile projects like Mac OS X, the software that ran the Macintosh. But his star had really risen with the smashing success of the iPhone, since he'd overseen the development of its software. Forstall had a reputation as a hard- charging and demanding executive and styled himself after Jobs, even driving the same silver Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG. Bloomberg once referred to Forstall as a "mini-Steve," so for some it was a logical assumption that he was a shoo-in for the next CEO. Apple, ever secretive, made no comment on possible successors.