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Tim Cook passed first test as Apple pitchman, analysts say

Mark Milian, CNN
The iPhone 4S unveiling was Tim Cook's first public presentation since being named Apple CEO.
The iPhone 4S unveiling was Tim Cook's first public presentation since being named Apple CEO.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New Apple CEO Tim Cook passed his first test as presenter, analysts say
  • Observer: A Cook keynote is unlike a "Steve Jobs show"
  • Cook looked more like an orchestra conductor than a pitchman
  • Analyst: "I thought it was a little more crisp than a Jobs presentation"

Cupertino, California (CNN) -- Tim Cook, Apple's newly appointed CEO, did not introduce a single product on Tuesday.

At Cook's first news conference since officially taking over for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, his team of executives announced a new iPhone, an application for sending greeting cards, and a location-based social network called Find My Friends. But Cook himself did not announce a single thing.

To use artistic metaphors, perhaps that's indicative of how Cook sees his role as Apple leader -- not as a sculptor but as an orchestra conductor.

Jobs is renowned for his ability to mold the shape of products during their development and for his involvement in seemingly trivial details of the business. He does not hesitate to tell his employees or powerful partners outside the company when he thinks they are wrong and need to rethink products. And, as even those who have been on the receiving end admit, he's usually right.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates once said of Jobs, "I'd give a lot to have Steve's taste."

Apple CEO Tim Cook's opening speech

Cook, who filled in for Jobs when he had taken medical leaves in past years, opened and closed Tuesday's iPhone 4S presentation alone, a role typically reserved for Jobs.

The event was an important exam for Cook, and analysts say he passed.

"I think Tim Cook did fine today," said John Jackson, an analyst at Boston-based market research firm CCS Insight, who attended the keynote. "The bench picks up where Steve left off."

At Apple's developers conference in June, when Jobs was on medical leave and Cook was filling in as interim CEO, Jobs was the first to take the stage. At that event, he unveiled the ambitious iCloud Internet service and then concluded the keynote. On Tuesday, however, Eddy Cue, who was Cook's first top-level executive appointment since becoming chief, handled the iCloud segment.

Cook, Apple's longtime operating chief before rising to CEO, has had limited stage experience. He appeared in New York earlier this year for a Verizon Wireless news conference where the U.S. cellular giant announced that it would start carrying the iPhone.

Tuesday was Cook's first test on his home turf. Although some observers on Twitter griped during the event about a lack of eye-popping news, Cook appeared comfortable and confident. He recited his lines flawlessly, and cracked jokes about iPads making planes more fuel-efficient, which elicited hearty laughs. (However, Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing exec, drew the most laughs when describing the improved camera on the iPhone 4S and how hard it was to get a squirrel to stand still for a photo shoot.)

Apple's fall announcements are typically held at a convention center in San Francisco and focus heavily on new iPods, but this one took place in a small auditorium on Apple's campus here, which limited the size of the crowd.

"It's sort of like inviting you into our home," Cook said to a crowd of reporters, analysts and executives. "Just 10 years ago, we launched the original iPod here, and it went on to revolutionize the way we listen to music."

In between discussing Apple Store openings in China and explaining sales and market share data, Cook made several comments that seemed humble and personal.

"I consider it the privilege of a lifetime to have worked here for 14 years and am very excited about this new role," he said at the outset. And he closed with, "I am so incredibly proud of this company."

The amount of preparation and rehearsal that went into Cook's onstage arrangement was evident, said Gartner analyst Michael King, who did not attend the event but followed along from Washington.

"I actually thought it was a little more crisp than a Jobs presentation," he said. "Less story time, more presentation. It was extremely well timed."

The first row of seating in the room was filled with Apple execs, with one obvious omission. Jobs, who is now an Apple director and chairman of its board of directors, was nowhere in sight and was not mentioned once during the presentation, though his presence was felt. The experience was different with Cook taking center stage, but not drastically.

"Certainly, the tone was different," Jackson said. "It does herald a certain cultural shift at Apple. These events aren't going to be the same as they ever were."

"It's not going to be the Steve Jobs show that generates headlines worldwide," he added.

Apple has carefully crafted the persona of Jobs in recent years as a visionary who is dynamic, charismatic and likable, said Sasha Strauss, a director for consulting firm Innovation Protocol.

While Apple works its marketing magic on Cook, the company and its leader will need to figure out what role he should serve in the public eye. Maybe Cook is well-positioned to conduct an orchestra of Apple's key supporting players. But will the company's product launches continue to make the same splash without a superstar?

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