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Behind the curtain: Besides Jobs, Apple's other leaders

Could anyone ever replace Steve Jobs? That's the question on many investors' minds today as Apple, which announces fiscal first quarter earnings later on Tuesday, wrestles with yet another medical leave for the company's chief visionary, innovation guru and cult-beloved CEO. Jobs announced Monday that Apple's board had granted him a leave for health reasons, but did not specify how long he would be gone or the severity of his condition.

In his place, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will again step in to run Apple's operations on a "day-to-day" basis, the release said. Jobs will retain the title of CEO and continue to "be involved in major strategic decisions for the company."

Still, the uncertainty of both the tenure and cause for Jobs' leave will surely have many taking a closer look at Apple's other executives. While the company is known to have a well-regarded leadership bench, no one is thought to have the same mix of obsessive attention to detail, negotiating power, inspirational product ideas and legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur status that Jobs has in spades.

Taken together, the top brass at Apple is likely to keep the company humming during Jobs' absence and manage the company quite well, at least in the short term. Over the long haul, however, many Apple observers question whether any of these leaders has the same capacity to inspire the sort of game-changing technology and design feats for which Jobs is so well known. As David Yoffie, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied the technology industry and served on tech company boards, told The New York Times, "The company could not thrive if Steve didn't have an extremely talented team around him. But you can't replace Steve on some levels."

Here, a few of the key players who will be stepping up in Steve's absence.

Tim Cook: The IBM and Compaq Computer veteran is considered an operational whiz who is as obsessive about running a smooth operation as Steve Jobs is about perfect products. Cook, an Alabama native, ran the company during Jobs' 2004 and 2009 leaves, and is widely regarded to have done so successfully. Jobs hired him in 1998 to help stabilize Apple's operations woes at one of the company's darkest hours. Cook took on broader responsibilities from there. He was praised for keeping the trains running on time during Jobs' 2009 leave, with product developments and launches staying on schedule. Still, some observers have criticized him for not having the same kind of strategic vision Jobs has. Cook is certainly making CEO-level pay: In 2010, Cook's total compensation was some $58 million, which included an $800,000 salary, $5 million bonus, and about $52 million in stock awards.

Jonathan Ive: As senior vice president of industrial design, Ive is responsible--second to Steve, of course--for the look and feel of Apple's products. He has been called Apple's Man Behind the Curtain for his quiet but influential role in executing Jobs' inspiration; known as being close to Jobs, Ive has been a critical part of the company's design process ever since Apple launched its brightly hued iMacs in the late 1990s. A Brit, Ive worked at a design consultancy prior to Apple, which he joined in 1992.

Scott Forstall: As senior vice president of iPhone software, Forstall manages the guts of arguably Apple's most popular and revolutionary product. That puts him in a place of increasing influence, as software becomes more and more of a distinguishing factor in Apple's products, according to press reports. The company credits Forstall, who joined Apple in 1997, with being one of the original architects of the Mac OS X operating system and its Aqua user interface.

Philip Schiller: Apple may be known for its technology, its design and the efficiency of its operations, but the company is also a master marketer. Much of that is due to Jobs, of course, long the company's key pitchman, but it's also due to Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. During the CEO's 2009 leave, Schiller took the stage instead of Jobs for the 2009 MacWorld keynote and for product launches such as the iPhone 3GS and new Macbook Pro models. Schiller, who worked at Macromedia before spending the last 20 years at Apple, has also been called the company's firefighter-in-chief, smoothing out relationships with app store developers when controversies arise.

Eddy Cue: Whether or not he's in a potentially ascendant role to Steve's throne, vice president of Internet services Eddy Cue "is regarded as an all-purpose fixer," writes The Wall Street Journal, "who has helped Mr. Jobs negotiate tricky relationships with music companies, movie studios and publishers." Cue, who Fast Company called the second most creative person in business, started as a low-level IT staffer before Jobs' return to the company in the mid-1990s.

Also by Jena McGregor:

Revealing Apple's succession plan?

Jobs' medical leave creates uncertainty for Apple, investors

By Jena McGregor

 |  January 18, 2011; 10:31 AM ET |  Category:  CEO watch , Change management , Corporate leadership , Succession planning , Technology Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Steve hires and inspires...

Posted by: kkrimmer | January 19, 2011 1:06 PM

Miss Pedantic says: re lead on home page:'top five guys THAT aren't Steve Jobs' - sb 'WHO ARE NOT'
Miss Pedantic has no shame in shaming those who fall over their grammar.

Posted by: FinnolafromOz | January 19, 2011 7:59 AM

As a fifteen year Apple adherent, the only regret I've had over those years is not buying stock. I love my Apple MacBook Pro, &, iPod Classic. I wouldn't do w/out either. If the price comes down, I'll likely get an iPad, as well. Apple's "feel," & "appearance," are part of the allure. The ease of operations & the ease of set ups is great. One virus in all those years. No bad. And the more Apple has succeeded, the more vendors have come around to producing software that works on their products, too.
Steve looks deathly ill.
He's a man on borrowed time.
I'd say this is just more about nasty Wall Street Greedmongers hoping to make some good money as novices bolt ... and sell Apple stock cheaper than it's been in a while.
Apple will go on just like every other American success story has gone on. It may not go on forever, but then, it might. Steve Jobs has undoubtedly picked some very talented people to follow in his footsteps. He might be a genius, & secretive, & perhaps, arrogant in his own way, but he's also smart, & undoubtedly, has come to grips with his own mortality.
In that regard, I imagine he loves Apple more than any other person alive. He won't leave it in the lurch, even if he does die soon.
God Bless Steve Jobs for all the wonderful innovations & intuitive computers he's brought to the world. God Bless Steve Jobs!!!

Posted by: zennheadd | January 18, 2011 5:47 PM

I would have thought it obvious that these lieutenants have co-existed with Jobs for so long precisely because they are not suitable for the CEO role -- at least, not at Apple. Apple is built around the cult of a strong personality, and it's going to need to look outside the company for someone with the right blend of ego, as well as business acumen,and product vision.

Posted by: jake3_14 | January 18, 2011 5:40 PM

How many of these executives have over 200 patents? Jobs combines exceptional skills in several different domains. Very few successful executives can match up with him in even one of those domains. I doubt you will find anyone else who can match his particular blend of skills and driving ambition.

Posted by: dnjake | January 18, 2011 2:34 PM

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