Fast Company Rounds Up 8 Potential Apple CEOs

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Business magazine Fast Company has rounded up a list of eight potential CEOs for Apple, come the day that Steve Jobs resigns or retires from the gig. The list looks at current Apple execs like COO Tim Cook and vice presidents Scott Forstall, Jon Ive, and Phil Schiller, as well as outside top execs such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Nokia VP Peter Skillman.

The list comes on the heals of the third medical leave of absence for Mr. Jobs, an event that has caused no end of speculation for potential replacements among Apple watchers far and wide, but Fast Company’s list is insightful and includes what we think are realistic odds of each of the execs includes.

The Fast Company Eight

Going clockwise: Tim Cook, Jon Ive, Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall,
Eric Schmidt, Tony Fadell, Mark Papermaster, Peter Skillman

At the top of the list is current COO Tim Cook, a man that many have picked as the top contender for Apple’s CEO slot because he has been placed in charge of Apple’s day-to-day operations during Mr. Jobs’s previous medical leaves of absence. In addition, the company’s performance and execution were excellent during the 2009 leave of absence and Apple’s stock advanced 60% during that time.

Fast Company, however, pegged his chances of becoming CEO as, “Long, long, long,” citing Mr. Cook’s lack of a creative vision, while acknowledging his extraordinary operational skills.

Apple’s designer wünderkind Jon Ive was given a “Medium-Long” chance of becoming CEO due to his lack of industrial and technical training. The magazine noted that, “He could be a powerful co-chair.”

Two executives were given “Medium” chances of being Apple’s CEO, Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Mr. Schiller’s marketing skills were praised, but the magazine said he would be better suited to remain in his VP role to support a new CEO.

“Medium” chances for Mr. Schmidt were somewhat of a surprise to us, especially in light of the fact that the magazine questioned his creative vision. The man who led Google to be a mega company has also had the kind of verbal slips that wouldn’t work well for a company where image is such a strong part of the brand.

The most interesting person on the list (and we’re ignoring fired VP Mark Papermaster and resigned iPod-master Tony Fadell as included-because-well-why-not execs) was Peter Skillman, currently VP of Meego Ux and Services Design at Nokia. Fast Company identified him as having the design sensibilities and understanding coupled with a strong technology chops for the job, and characterized his chances of being a future Apple CEO as, “Long in the short term, good in the future.”

The only exec on the list to get an unqualified “Good” rating was Apple Senior VP iPhone Software Scott Forstall. The magazine credited his attention to detail, his work on Mac OS X’s Aqua interface and iOS’s interface, and his skills at public speaking and presentation. In addition, Fast Company believes he has the technical chops for the role, too.

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What’s John Scully doing these days?


Why fix something that’s not broken.  Tim Cook has my full confidence and obviously that of Steve Jobs.

I think you don’t give Cook enough credit.  Steve Jobs may have the vision but he also has folks beneath him that think the same sway (Ive) and put that together and it’s that formidable team that makes everything work.

I certainly hope if / when that day comes that Apple sticks to their current talent and not go outside of that.


Sometimes Steve’s “vision” was very short on detail, despite his reputation for being obsessive about detail and micro-managing projects. He left out details that almost any of the intended users would have said “where’s the…”.

Meaning no offense to anyone, but what is good about the iPhone, at last, is that it does things better than other smart phones. Ask any Blackberry user and the changes needed should have been apparent. The Androids are massing for an assault on the iPhone and so improving it in all regards is what is called for.

Lest we forget, the mouse and the GUI were lifted wholesale from the HP PARC. Indeed, the person told to conduct the tour knew what would happen and refused to do it unless ordered to do so in writing.

Anyway, I think Tim Cook has not only Steve’s indorsement, but the ability to make the transition almost seamless, which should be a matter of great importance to the shareholders. Keeping the rest of the team intact would be good, too. They all know how to work together with each other and are the ones who really have made things happen.

new angle

Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Lee Dronick

Lest we forget, the mouse and the GUI were lifted wholesale from the HP PARC

Licensed not lifted which implies theft, and we all follow in the footsteps of giants; Anyway Steve Jobs had the foresight to see where it could go, when Xerox didn’t seem to realize what they had.


Eric Schmidt is so not an Apple type person. Not even close. If he ever became Apple CEO, I’d seriously consider getting rid of all my Apple products.


Lest we forget, the mouse and the GUI were lifted wholesale from the HP PARC.

Should check your facts, bud. Lifted, suggests stolen (as Sir Harry Flashman has pointed out). In fact, they where bought. Apple paid around a million bucks for a tour. It was understood they were on a fact finding mission. This wasn’t like a day out to the local zoo.

Error on PARC’s part? Doesn’t seem they had a clue what they had or what to do with their products and certainly seemed to lack a visionary who might have led them to make a better decision regarding the tour.

Checking one’s facts or prefacing them with “I think” stands one in better stead.


I can’t believe Eric Schmidt is on the list.  If he’s a contender then so is Carly Fiorina - for example.

I’ll wager, just like the Apple Quarterly report, the enthusiastic “amateurs” have a much better idea of who the future CEO might be than all the “professionals” put together.

Been There

As a former Apple senior employee I find this list to be offensive.  There is only one name that is significant.  This may be the worst speculation I have ever witnessed.  The author is a moron with no understanding of Apple.


Lifted, borrowed, assimilated, call it what you will, infer what you want. The fact of the matter is that Steve did not invent it. That Apple licensed it from the actual inventor (which wasn’t actually PARC) some years later does not change this.

Steve and the crew had an “aha moment” when they saw it. Who knows where we would be now if Apple had not introduced this technology in their computers. Perhaps we would still be at the C prompt as another article has suggested.

It was not at all uncommon for the inventors of technology to not grasp the potential of their work. IBM had no idea that the PC would sell the way it ultimately did and so passed off IBM-PC DOS to Bill Gates and M$. IBM had no idea that mainframes would sell the way they did. When the mainframes were first developed IBM thought there was a potential market for a handful of them…worldwide.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Three letters: J. L. G. Sing it with me…

Jean, Jean-Louis, will you Be
Apple’s new CEO, oh NO!
Jean, jean-Louis, you’re so crafty.
We want you as the CEO, did you know?
If you were free, Jean-Louis,
to hire your friends, to run this company…
What job would you give Guy Kawasa-keeeee?

Vive la France!


Lifted, borrowed, assimilated, call it what you will, infer what you want. The fact of the matter is that Steve did not invent it. That Apple licensed it from the actual inventor (which wasn?t actually PARC) some years later does not change this.

In the same way, Ronin, I can’t let go the bone, either. I looked, it’s late, maybe I missed it; but I can’t find anywhere in this article anyone but you suggesting or mentioning that Steve invented it.

The whole PARC thing is very important in Apple lore. It is well documented, in print, TV documentaries, interviews with Steve and probably somewhere, sometime mentioned, before, on this forum; can be found in Wikipedia, books, newspaper and never, in any of these opportunities that I can remember, was it ever mention as you imply.

Also, the mouse was not invented at PARC. The inventor was Dr Douglas Engelbart in the early 60’s at the Stanford Research Institute and got his idea from the work of Vannevar Bush, 1945. If there was any lifting with this little gizmo, it was by Xerox guys. Engelbart’s group made use of text-based hyperlinks manipulated with a mouse; PARK took the next step to the use of graphics and Xerox took the next step and produced the Star in 1981, which wasn’t a success upon which Apple and Amiga computers took the next step to make successful computers using the GUI and mouse, 1984 and 1985.

You are absolutely correct in that Steve and Apple had an Aha moment. This is the inspiration that nurtures progress and refinement. And where would we be if Apple had not been working on its tablet (not yet named iPad publicly) and someone (maybe Steve but it doesn’t really matter) had an Aha moment, realized that by adding the telephone stuffings to a smaller version of their tablet, Apple would have a smart phone; so the tablet was put on hold, the iPhone became a reality and then the tablet was put back on the burner and the rest is more history.

Without the Aha moment over their tablet, we do know, with much certainty, the smart phone of Android would not be where it is today and we do know, with absolute certainty, that Apple would be further ahead with the iPad than they are now and competition would be as behind if not further behind than they are today.

The difference is that Apple also can’t let go the bone and we are all better off because of it.


Welcome back, Bosco. Been wondering when you’d rear your head. Must have finally smelled some blood, eh? Kind of slim pickings for you what with all Apple’s successes splattered about like the glory surrounding a coronation.



Yes, I had said that PARC did not invent the mouse. Apple secured a license from Mr. Engelbart several years later. According to many reports the cost was “not much”. Apparently Mr. Engelbart failed to grasp the future of his little invention as well.

The discussion was about “the vision thing”. The defining “vision” in Apple’s history, and probably personal computer history, is the implementation of the mouse/GUI combination in a consumer operating system. Certainly Bill Gates & Co had a reaction to its deployment…to borrow it themselves.

Who knows what was actually said in the inner sanctum when Apple was, no doubt, evaluating Blackberry and Nokia ‘smart phones’? It could easily have been “this sucks”. Taking from their earlier experience, Apple must certainly have realized that creating a new OS (suited to the ARM SoC) under the GUI, this time without the mouse, would enable a more intuitive and satisfying user experience, especially when browsing the internet. I am sure the sales numbers for this market must have been like so many “sugar plums dancing in their heads.” It is a huge market with a lot of $$$ to be made as the past few years have shown. Ending the AT&T exclusivity agreement is like changing to second gear in a car. First gear got you moving pretty well, but now things can continue to accelerate. Soon Apple may be thought of as “the iPhone company” if things continue the way they appear to be heading. (Let’s hope that this does not distract from development of the Mac platform.)

What one should never forget is that Steve and Apple are one heck of a marketing machine.


Kim Komando.  Seriously.

Not sure how she’d qualify vision-wise, but she would bring star power and hopefully some contacts within the media/entertainment industry.


This type of speculation is not helpful in the least.
Not to Apple, Jobs, or customers and loyalists. Succession isn’t a wager, it’s a plan.
One that Apple I’m sure has had in place for years.
Move on, TMO readers deserve better

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

This type of speculation is not helpful in the least.

But it’s a lot of fun. With Schmidt in the mix, any long standing plans that Apple may or may not have had are irrelevant. If you elevate one of the apostles, at least two will ditch. These budding egos need to be kept in line with adult supervision.

On a completely unrelated note, I’m surprised nobody has commented that Cookie and the Master of Papers look like they were separated at birth.


Ending the AT&T exclusivity agreement is like changing to second gear in a car.

Namaste, Ronin. Perfect metaphor.

Too many times has Apple been criticized over its AT&T contract when indeed it was a brilliant step by Apple. Such brilliance has happened far too often for their success to be just dumb luck as some like to portray. What Apple does can be so stunningly breathtaking; it’s akin to watching a predator making what’s taken to be the wrong moves, suddenly coming up victorious. The grand design is the message; losing a little ground to capture the castle is pocket change. And then Apple changes gears. A simple MP3 player becomes a movie player a book reader and a web surfer and the copycats are left behind, scratching their heads.

A marketing machine par excellence, yes. An insistent advertiser that has the bucks to buy the air, hooray. But it is the substance behind its products, the time taken in planning and testing, the ability to see vast corners where others are blind, the willingness to put out a very good product?simple and obviously practical in design?that takes the wind out of competitors? sails. It is the choice to set off in ?first gear? and willing to stay there until the time and product is right, experienced enough to know that criticism will be raised when obvious trimmings are not included, willing to wait, nonetheless, until their design is perfect and would not prove disappointing to their customers as so often happens in the lands without vision. Understanding this and willing to travel the slow steadied route sets Apple apart from the vultures.

The vision is what the bozo Apple haters are blind to but it is also the brilliance that brings the brighter ones to the MO where healthy discussion takes place. But they are blinded to the vision that is Patience and Design. They fail to realize that vision is not like some heavenly message granted by the gods of luck or chance.

I had given into the possibility that Apple would lose its phone edge and was instead set on the iPad as its next conquering slaughter. Your first and second gear analogy has returned me to the vision and sums the Apple strategy up perfectly?there are plenty more shifts in them Apple?s gears.

That bone they won?t be giving up anytime too soon.


One that Apple I?m sure has had in place for years.

Exactly, misidoric. Some (or one) being too filled with agenda to understand your point.



Not to disagree with your analysis, but sometime chance, happenstance, luck or serendipity guide visions.

One of the more famous of such happenstance occurrences was a U.S. Naval Officer who saw B-25s landing on an air strip under circumstances which suggested the possibility of a carrier take-off which led, ultimately, to the Doolittle Tokyo Raid.


Lee Dronick

but sometime chance, happenstance, luck or serendipity guide visions.

Supposedly Ely Whitney got the idea for the cotton gin by watching a cat paw between the slats of a crate. It was trying to get at chickens inside the crate, but only managed to pull out feathers.


Agreed. But like lightening strikes, they are blunder-chance at best (tho’ there’s some dude in the US who has been hit by lightening more times than I’ve heard a sentient idea from Bosco.)

Wasn’t it Edison who would fall asleep in front of the fireplace with a coin in his hand and would waken when it clattered into a pot when it dropped. He claimed to have gotten a fair number of good ideas from those arousing moments.

Now, is this a case of serendipity or planned vision? Maybe what Apple has learned to do is planned visioning through mindfulness, a tricky little idea brought to life by some bud born 8 April 565 BCE. (My birthday, I like to point out- day and month, not the year.)


mhiki said: there are plenty more shifts in them Apple?s gears.

That’s often the trouble with Apple’s competitors:  No shift.


What about Steve Wozniak, if interested.


What about Steve Wozniak, if interested.

Interesting idea. I’ve thought about that and I don’t see any reason he’d take it. He’s happy where he is. What’s more I see him as more of a tinker/hardware guy. SJ is the business guy. I don’t think Woz would want the job any more now than when Apple was founded or when he left Apple in ‘87.


Points taken but i was thinking on the idea of continuity. To stabilize investors and have someone for which Apple means something profoundly. As for the real day to day operations and strategy well apple can find solid leadership in the people already there. Besides it’s the tinkerers that see what we should be selling or will be selling.


My first pick is Tim Cook, Then Jon Ive, Then Phil Schiller.

Eric Schmidt I wouldn’t even consider him at all.

I’m not sure about the rest of them either. I think Apple should look at all of the current people first before even considering anyone outside the company.

And this is all bla, bla, bla anyways because Steve is still the CEO and probably will remain so for a very long time.
And I only remember this as being the second leave of absence that Steve has taken, not the third.

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