Into his own Apple CEO emerges from Jobs’ shadow

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced a new version of company's hot-selling iPhone last fall.

NEW YORK — Apple CEO Tim Cook has long seen as the humorless and unemotional guy running the show from behind the scenes. But he is beginning to reveal a more assertive and eloquent side, hinting that he’s learning to shoulder more of Steve Jobs’ role as a front man and leader.

On a conference call with journalists and financial analysts this week, Cook showed some fire when talking about competitors, echoing the combative Jobs.

Most Apple watchers have sized up Cook as a competent caretaker of the machine that Apple founder and late CEO Steve Jobs created, but if Cook has latent charisma that can be thawed out further, he may turn into the kind of leader some people think is essential for the company.

In a blog post Wednesday, George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, predicted that Apple Inc. will go the way of Sony, fading away now that Jobs is not around to inspire. “Without the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company,” he wrote.

Even while Jobs was alive, Cook handled appearances in front of Wall Street analysts. He spoke precisely and calmly, and his language wasn’t very quotable. At a Goldman Sachs investors meeting in February, for instance, he said “our high order bit is we want to please customers.” A “high order bit” is a computer science term for the most important piece of data in a set.

Carmine Gallo, a communications coach and the author of several books about Apple, said that while it’s clear Cook is a much less emotive communicator than Jobs, he could become an effective one.

“Remember, Steve Jobs’ stage presence was honed over decades of trying to improve his style and his communications skills. The Steve Jobs of the mid-70s was not nearly as polished and charismatic as the Steve Jobs that we knew until last year,” Gallo said.

But most importantly, Gallo said, it’s evident that Cook cares deeply about Apple.

Cook revealed some of that passion at the February conference. Toward the end of the talk, he said there was “no better thrill” for him than going to a gym or to Starbucks and seeing people using their iPhones or iPads.

“These are the things that bring a smile to my face, and there is no replacement or substitute for that,” Cook said.