Tim Cook is no dark horse. He's no outsider either. And while most of us were caught a bit off guard when Apple announced Steve Jobs's resignation last night, none were too surprised when the 50-year-old executive was formally named his replacement. It's a role for which Cook has been groomed for some time now, even temporarily stepping into the position in 2004, 2009 and early 2011, as Jobs took leave in order to tend to his ongoing health problems.

Cook has been with Apple for the lion's share of Jobs's second coming, joining the company in 1998. At the time, Cook was six months into a stint at Compaq, serving as Vice President, Corporate Materials. Prior to his brief run there he was the COO of Intelligent Electronics and spent a far longer 12-year stretch at IBM, serving as the Director of North American Fulfillment at the time of his exit. Cook did his undergrad at Auburn University, earning a BS in industrial engineering, going on to get an MBA at Duke University half a decade later.

When Cook first joined Apple his title was Senior Vice President for Worldwide Operations -- a position that challenged him to overhaul the company's inefficient supply chain. The exec would soon prove himself an invaluable and no-nonsense leader within the confines of Cupertino, trimming excess fat, closing down factories, reducing inventory levels and pumping up margins. He compared his work to the dairy business, driving home the importance of never keeping anything past its freshness date. And no collection of Cook anecdotes is complete without a simple question -- "Why are you still here?" -- posed to a fellow executive half an hour after telling them that someone needed to be in China, addressing a supply concern there.

Most Cook anecdotes paint him as dry and business-minded, waking up at 4:30 in the morning to send emails, and holding meetings on Sunday night to prepare for the week to come. So it was no surprise that Cook's first official staff letter as CEO arrived bright and early this morning.

In 2005, Cook was named COO, having already stepped in for Steve Jobs a year earlier during his first medical leave. At the time of his promotion, Jobs said of Cook, " Tim has been doing this job for over two years now, and it's high time we officially recognized it with this promotion."

You could say the same applies to Cook's latest promotion as well. It's true, while Jobs shed his title as chief executive, he was also appointed chairman of the company's board of directors -- a role that will likely ensure he remains steeped in the company's big-picture decision making. That caveat aside, Cook has considerable experience running the company's day-to-day operations, and as anyone who knows Cook will attest, he's reputed as much for being a diligent student as a tireless worker. And when it comes to the world of consumer electronics, it's hard to imagine a better teacher than Steve.


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