San Franscisco - Tim Cook, the man who was tapped by Steve Jobs to replace him as Apple chief executive, has some big shoes to fill.
According to one company insider, it's like trying to follow The Beatles at a rock concert. But when Jobs stepped down as chief executive on August 24, he had no doubt that the 50-year-old Alabama native was up to the task.
In his message to employees announcing Jobs' death, Cook said: "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius." Jobs "leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."
Few outside the circle of Apple watchers had heard of Cook, much less have confidence in him taking the helm of the world's most valuable technology company.
At first glance, Cook seemed a strange choice to follow the maverick leadership of Jobs, whose mercurial charm, impeccable marketing instincts and unmatched charisma made him a tech superstar from the day he founded Apple.
Cook by contrast is famously shy about speaking in public, is known as a nuts-and-bolts logistics man and seemed ill-suited to fill the role of evangelist-in-chief, which was such a major part of Jobs' function.
But Fortune magazine described Cook as the "genius behind Steve."
Cook grew up in the small town of Robertsdale, Alabama, the son of a retired shipyard worker, and earned an MBA from Duke University after getting a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering. Before moving to Apple in 1998 as senior vice president of operations, Cook had worked for 12 years in PC logistics at IBM and was a vice president at Compaq.
He won early kudos at Apple for fixing its manufacturing flaws, closing the company's factories and shifting production to contract manufacturers. As his successes mounted, he was three times named as Apple's interim leader when Jobs' health problems forced him to take medical leave.
Known to be unflappable, calm and quiet, Cook is a workaholic, reportedly shooting off emails at 4:30 in the morning and priding himself on being the first one in and last one out of the office.
According to the tech web site Gizmodo, he was famous at IBM for volunteering to work on Christmas and New Year's days.