Williams has long been considered a frontrunner to succeed Tim Cook as CEO of Apple, and with his expanded design-related oversight at Apple, Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman believes he is “unambiguously the second-most important person at Apple” and first in line to succeed Cook when the time comes.
In line with his calm demeanor on stage at Apple events, Gurman notes that Williams has over the years distinguished himself as a modest, disciplined, and demanding leader, much more like Cook than Steve Jobs.
From the report:
“He’s the closest thing at the company to Tim Cook, and you’ll get more of that,” a former senior Apple executive says of Williams. “If you think Cook is doing a good job, then it’s a good choice.”
Williams is considered to be slightly more hands-on with product development than Cook, however, as evidenced by his leadership of the Apple Watch team since its inception. Williams is also said to attend weekly reviews of product and industrial design progress and brief Cook on the discussions.
Williams now oversees the development of all Apple hardware products, holding weekly meetings to gauge their progress. Although the process is formally called NPR, or New Product Review, some employees call this the “Jeff Review.” During the development of the AirPods, some of them noticed that Williams continued wearing Apple’s wired headphones instead of the new product. Williams wasn’t yet happy with the fit of the wireless model.
The big question mark with Ive’s impending departure is whether Apple will remain innovative. Critics will argue that Apple has already become complacent under Cook, and with Williams having a similar operations-focused approach, the narrative is that Apple might falter without a Jobs-era visionary.
From the report:
“One doesn’t necessarily need a visionary as CEO of Apple as long as there’s a visionary in the company that the CEO can work with,” says Michael Gartenberg, a former Apple marketing executive. “Tim Cook had Jony Ive. The question is, with Ive gone, who is the visionary at the company that can guide the next big thing?”
Depending on how involved Ive remains with Apple through his independent design firm, that might not be a concern for several more years to come. Apple has also more than doubled its market value under Cook, so any concerns that Apple has fallen behind in the post-Jobs era are arguably overblown.
It’s worth noting that there is no sign that Cook plans to step down any time soon. Williams, 56, is also less than three years younger than Cook.