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Apple’s Tim Cook is No. 5 on the Recode 100.

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Tim Cook is officially underrated

Cook is No. 5 on the Recode 100.

Tim Cook is succeeding at an impossible task: Following the greatest-ever product visionary as Apple’s CEO. Yet six years after his mentor Steve Jobs died, Apple is thriving. And Cook is growing into his prominence as one of the business world’s most increasingly vocal good-guy CEOs.

For Apple, 2017 was a return to growth. After sales declines in 2016, Apple has now posted four consecutive quarters of year-over-year revenue gains — and it’s accelerating.

And that doesn’t even include a single iPhone X, the new version of Apple’s most important product, which launched in November and our sister site The Verge calls “easily the best smartphone ever made.” If Apple beats its forecast for this holiday quarter, it will reach $238 billion in sales this year — up $20 billion from 2016. A decade ago, when the first iPhone launched, $20 billion was most of the year’s business.

The iPhone’s rejuvenation has propelled Apple to new all-time highs this year. The company’s market cap again briefly passed $900 billion after its latest earnings report last month. Some 60 percent of Apple’s market value has happened since Cook became its CEO in 2011. It has a shot at becoming the world’s first trillion dollar company.

“But the iPhone was Steve’s vision,” you may say. What about Tim’s Apple?

The Apple Watch, the first major new product launched under the Cook era, has quietly become a big hit. AirPods are amazing and exciting. Together, they form a wearable computer lineup that has many interesting applications, notably fitness and medicine.

Cook and company are also setting Apple up to succeed in augmented reality — where real life and computer graphics are mixed— which many see as one of the next big technology waves.

There is also a self-driving car project — which, we’ll see.

But beyond the occasional little problem — HomePod speaker delay, embarrassing software bugs, admitting the Mac Pro needed a rethink — Apple has had a pretty great year, even by Apple’s standards.

Also interesting is to watch Cook emerge as a leader on the public stage. He has evolved from “intensely private” and a “blank slate” to semi-vocal do-gooder, using his Twitter account (approaching 9 million followers) and increasing cadence of public appearances as a platform to promote equality, immigration, education and the environment.

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