Apple CEO Tim Cook's Whirlwind Year

Friday, 24 Aug 2012 | 2:31 PM ET
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the Apple 2012 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Moscone West on June 11, 2012 in San Francisco, California.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the Apple 2012 World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Moscone West on June 11, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

Our calendars tell us it's been exactly one year since Tim Cook took over as CEO of Apple. And it's true – Steve Jobs resigned a year ago, recommended Cook, and the board promoted him.

How has he done?

On the product side, not too shabby.

The iPhone 4S turned out to be a huge success, despite some naysayers who first complained that it wasn't the iPhone 5.

The new iPad surged as PC sales stagnated. Supply chain management, one of Cook's strong suits, seems to have gone beautifully for both products.

Apple shipped 37 million iPhones last holiday season, and 35 million the quarter after. Last month Apple reported that it had shipped 17 million iPads in the spring.

You'd also have to give Cook high marks for crisis management.

First he dealt with the tragic passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; he led a massive on-campus memorial for employees. Then he faced a flood of criticism of Apple's manufacturing operations in China; he answered by commissioning an outside audit of the facilities, and he visited the Chinese factories to make the point that he's serious about making progress.

When Apple faced customer backlash for dropping out of EPEAT green certification program, he quickly reversed course and got back in. Same goes for reversing the retail cuts that threatened to leave Apple stores understaffed during the holiday launch season.

But some of the biggest challenges for Apple will materialize over this next year.

The next iPhone will sport a new design, new accessories, and a newly energized field of competition led by Samsung.

The rumored new mini iPad will have to try to pull in new tablet customers rather than cannibalize those who would have bought a higher-end iPad anyway.

Siri, the voice-activated iOS assistant, will have to make major improvements in reliability. And then there's TV: Can Apple figure out how to make it more than a hobby? (Note: A cable set top box would still be a hobby.)

Perhaps most significant of all though, Apple will have to figure out how to become a great services company. Its track record there is spotty. MobileMe didn't work well. Ping flopped. iCloud is off to a promising start, but it's so limited that it's not nearly on par with Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote.

More and more, gaining ground in the marketplace seems to be about bringing together hardware, software and services — that's Google's play, and Amazon's . Apple got where it is in part by besting its rivals in media services with iTunes.

Now the game has changed and is also about cloud storage, mobile payments and – and yes, enhanced television. If Tim Cook can figure out how to master those, he might just take Apple to a whole new level.

email: tech@cnbc.com

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  • Matt Hunter is the senior technology editor at CNBC.com.

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