Jeff Williams, Apple’s heir apparent, is much more like Tim Cook than Steve Jobs

Mark Gurman for 9to5Mac:

Apple's Jeff Williams
Jeff Williams, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer
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.


  1. So I guess that would make him…

    Clueless about Tech
    More interested in SJW stuff
    Loves Oprah
    Drawn to Hollywood
    Not a visionary

  2. The design team Mr. Ive managed “…will be headed by two vice presidents who will report to Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams—effectively demoting the team.” Apple’s supply and manufacturing network is so expansive that the Board decided that design is no longer as important. This moves Apple into adopting Microsoft’s anti-visionary MO.

    1. Yeah been wanting to resist most of those thoughts (at least conclusively) for some time now but clearly like it or not the suits are taking over, what a shame that someone else has taken out a copyright on ‘The Boring Company’.

      1. I fear that there is no strong creative vision left to push through futuristic ideas that are unified and that are commercially viable. Outside contractor Ive could certainly contribute to a fragmented vision.

    2. Demotion is not desirable.

      Wikipedia: “Forstall joined Steve Jobs’s NeXT in 1992 and stayed when it was purchased by Apple in 1997. Forstall was then placed in charge of designing user interfaces for a reinvigorated Macintosh line. In 2000, Forstall became a leading designer of the Mac’s new Aqua user interface, known for its water-themed visual cues such as translucent icons and reflections, making him a rising star in the company.”

      Other career highlights:
      * Supervised the creation of the Safari web browser
      * Led the iPod team
      * Won fierce competition to create iOS
      * Responsible for creating a software developer’s kit for programmers to build iPhone apps
      * 2006 on responsible for Mac OS X releases
      * Took the stage launching the iPhone 4S to demonstrate first of a kind voice assistant Siri

      Wikipedia: “Forstall was very close to and referred to as a mini-Steve Jobs, so Jobs’ death left Forstall without a protector.
      Forstall was also referred to as the CEO-in-waiting by Fortune magazine and the book Inside Apple (written by Adam Lashinsky), a profile that made him unpopular at Apple.” Not a surprise. Power struggles are common in every workplace. Today, you don’t need a legitimate reason to force someone out to protect your own arse and your political buddies. Talent and experience has nothing to do with it if your manager is threatened.

      No one on planet Earth is more qualified for Apple CEO or creative leader than Scott Forstall. May the SECOND genius prodigal son return and lead Apple higher….

      1. Forstall was an ass, I read, in whose presence Ive and a couple of other SVPs bristled. Now that Ive is gone, much of the impediment is gone so Forstall’s return might be propitious. But would would Cook be willing to embrace him and, more importantly, would Forstall still be interested to resume his old job and, if so, would he be willing to tear himself away from play production?

  3. 1) It is going to take an “operations guy” to pull off the 2 big projects Apple is working on – Apple Glasses and self-driving cars. 2) Be glad Apple has operations guys, because other companies lack that discipline (eg- Elon Musk working on the Tesla assembly line) . . . 3) Most predictions of who will lead a company in 5 or 10 years turn out to be wrong– things change . . .Keep in mind that Apple has a lot of young talent that we have never seen (eg- Ten years ago, no one had heard of Craig Federighi)

    1. And even if there were a personality like Jobs’, the hierarchy would likely not allow it to rise high enough to become similarly influential. On the other hand, maybe someone will.

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