updated 10:30 pm EDT, Wed July 21, 2010
Apple in early steps to ready for Jobs exit
Apple has promoted an executive in what could be some of its earliest steps towards handling CEO Steve Jobs' succession, a report claimed this evening. VP of Operations Jeff Williams is understood to have been promoted to Senior VP, just below chief operating officer Tim Cook, with the intention of taking Cook's role should he replace Jobs as company leader. AppleInsider understands that he would oversee product quality as well as help manage the supply chain, both of which have been considered Cook's strengths and which would hint at a large amount of trust in Williams' abilities.
Williams has supposedly been groomed for considerably longer in an attempt to keep him onboard for a future leadership role. He was granted 40,000 stock options as long ago as August 2005 and has been granted between 10,000 and 26,250 stock options every year since, all of which vest over the course of four years. If all of them were to vest at once as of Wednesday, Williams would make almost $27.3 million.
The new Senior VP was originally brought on to Apple from IBM and has drawn most of his attention for efforts in the handhelds that now make up the majority of Apple's business. As head of worldwide procurement, he was crucial to getting components for the early years of the iPod and later as VP proved important to the 2007 launch of the iPhone.
It's not known whether the promotion has been prompted by any particular events. However, Jobs has taken increasing steps in the wake of his cancer treatments to show that the company isn't solely dependent on his leadership and may be eager to put a more definite succession plan in place. Many of Apple's more recent presentations have had Jobs only on stage for a portion of the event, with Senior VPs ranging from Phil Schiller to Scott Forstall often presenting key segments.
Jobs' position is unique in the industry as it's believed that he still has a large amount of control over product designs relative to other companies. Google, Microsoft and other major competitors usually delegate many key decisions to executives with the CEO primarily offering larger strategy and oversight.