When Apple announced the pending departure of Chief Design Officer Jony Ive last month, it threw the spotlight on an executive few outsiders know: Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, who has now also taken over the company’s legendary design studio. This added fiefdom makes Williams unambiguously the second-most important person at Apple and Tim Cook’s heir apparent as CEO. And he’s very much in the mold of the current chief executive: a paragon of operational efficiency and even temper not prone to quite the same highs and lows of Cook’s more visionary predecessor, Steve Jobs.
Several current and former colleagues… say that during his years as the company’s operations chief, Cook’s old job, Williams has distinguished himself as a modest, disciplined, demanding leader in the current CEO’s style. He’s negotiated with suppliers, shipped hundreds of millions of devices a year from Chinese factories to the rest of the globe, and been a bit more hands-on with product development than Cook, they say. Williams attends weekly reviews of product and industrial design progress, subsequently briefing Cook for a final signoff, and has been the lead executive shepherding the Apple Watch to market. Within Apple, Williams is broadly regarded as a strong choice for the top job, and current and former colleagues say management had been steadily positioning him as such long before Ive’s departure… “Jeff is 95% operations and 5% product,” says someone who knows him. “Apple has become an operations company.”
MacDailyNews Take: The CEO can work with whichever visionary eventually arises (they’re rare, but Apple attracts
top-notch, er… high quality talent).
As for Williams being groomed as CEO, we view him more as an insurance policy than a successor. Tim Cook is 58 years old. Jeff Williams is 56. If all goes well, by the time Tim Cook retires, Williams will be of retirement age, too. If Cook decides to leave and do something else before retirement, then Williams is right there, ready to step in for Apple. For Cook, there won’t be the years of succession questions that Steve Jobs faced.