Fast Company Rounds Up 8 Potential Apple CEOs

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.