“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.” It was with these words that Apple’s iconic co-founder Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of the company ten years ago, on August 24, 2011. Jobs, who had been battling pancreatic cancer for years, briefly took on the role of Chairman of the Board before succumbing to his illness on October 5, 2011.
Besides strongly recommending Tim Cook as his successor in his resignation letter, Jobs stated his belief that “Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it,” a notion that many Apple enthusiasts and admirers of Jobs’ life’s work did not share at the time. While Tim Cook was widely respected as an efficient COO and supply chain expert, many onlookers thought he lacked the vision and charisma to follow in the footsteps of his larger-than-life predecessor. The press release announcing Cook’s appointment did little to resolve such doubts. It lauded Cook’s “outstanding performance, remarkable talent and sound judgement” in contrast to Job’s “extraordinary vision and leadership,” his “unique insights, creativity and inspiration,” inadvertently playing into the technocrat vs. visionary narrative.
And yet, ten years into Cook’s tenure at the helm of Apple, it must be concluded that Jobs was at least partly right. While the jury is still out on whether the past decade was the most innovative in Apple’s history, it certainly was the brightest in terms of growth and execution. As the following chart shows, Apple’s revenue and profit more than tripled between 2011 and 2021, as the company constantly expanded the ecosystem of devices and services around its flagship product, the iPhone. As a consequence, Apple’s market capitalization grew from roughly $350 billion on the day of Steve Jobs’ resignation to almost $2.5 trillion 10 years later.