SAN FRANCISCO - Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs when it comes to leading Apple Inc. as the debut of the new iPhone 5 just proved, that may not be a bad thing.
The taller, thinner and lighter phone prompted a rush on Wall Street to raise price targets for Apple stock, but the optimism was not because of a big technological advance or design breakthrough; the "wow" factor that was the trademark of the late Apple co-founder Jobs was decidedly absent.
Rather, it was the speed of the global launch that astounded, validating the new CEO's much-touted wizardry at the essential but unglamorous task of managing a supply chain.
"We are positively surprised regarding the pace of the rollout, since we had expected a bigger impact from component constraints," Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes said.
By next Friday, the iPhone 5 will be in 31 countries, and will be in 100 by the end of the calendar year. That would be 30 more than the rollout of the predecessor phone, the 4S, over a similar period, Jeffries analyst Peter Misek calculated.
That means Apple has worked out supply constraints and inked deals now with 240 carriers. It will get enough phones out the door in the next 10 days to have a material effect on earnings.
"His skills fit the time period and the flow of product,"said Raymond Miles, professor emeritus at Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, adding that Apple may be at a stage where it needs "someone with a production vision."
The iPhone launch offers some other, subtler indications of how Apple is changing under Cook. In public events, Jobs stood out in his black turtleneck, an d performed carefully crafted one-man stage shows. At the press event for the iPhone 5, Cook blended into a pack of executives all sporting a uniform of jeans and untucked casual dress shirt.
Indeed, one might say that practical, low-flash, but high-impact actions are emerging as the Cook trademark. He has introduced a dividend to pay out part of the more than $100 billion cash stockpile, raised salaries for a rabidly loyal but low-paid workforce in the Apple stories, and sped up product rollouts.
Under Cook, more Wall Street analysts have been invited to headquarters to talk to executives, particularly Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer and head of Internet services Eddy Cue. Cook himself addressed investors at a Goldman Sachs conference, a rarity for Apple executives, and initiated investigations into allegations of labor abuse in its supply chain.