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Why Apple Still Needs Tim Cook

Bret Kenwell

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple has begun to recover from its horrendous slide from $705 to $389. Since the slide began, many people have been calling for CEO Tim Cook's head -- figuratively, of course.

Some folks who blamed him for the entire decline then had the gall to say he had nothing to do with the stock's recent bounce.

Talk about not giving credit where credit is due. If you have the opinion that Cook has done nothing to cause this bounce (even with the 15% dividend increase and the $60 billion stock buyback program), then that's fine. But just don't say the decline is his fault, too. That would just be unfair, and you know it.

Shareholders might want a visionary to steer Apple, and that's fine, but don't rule out Cook's importance.

There's no doubt that having someone like Steve Jobs at the helm of Apple was crucial. The combination of his product vision and demanding -- some would say ruthless -- business style made it possible for the company to rise to the top.

But for Apple to really fire on all cylinders, it needs a smart operations guy -- a nerd, really. Someone who can crunch the numbers and know precisely the most efficient way to accomplish a specific task, whether it has to do with supply chain management, inventory or shipping. Doing these tasks most efficiently is what allows for fat margins, and investors love fat margins.

Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs continually stressed Tim Cook's importance to the company. Although Jobs was able to reduce inventory from two months to one month, Cook was able to get it down to six days. Jobs would later go on to say that, "He and I saw things exactly the same way."

Apple still has Jony Ive too, Jobs' right-hand man in coming up with many of the products that we love today, such as the iPhone and iPad. Although Jobs may have taken credit for a lot of these products -- something that drove Ive nuts and was highlighted in the biography -- it doesn't mean Ive didn't have a very important role in the finished the product.

Pertaining to Ive, Jobs referred to him as his "spiritual partner" at Apple and that "he understands what we do at our core better than anyone." Arguably, you could make the case that Ive is Apple's visionary.

With Cook overseeing Apple and its operations and Ive running the designs and "flow" of the new products, I think it's a little premature to declare Apple's growth days long gone.

The company does face margin compression from increased competition and market saturation. But sales are still thriving and consumers still want Apple products.

Apple will continue to have robust sales, at least for the next several years. I think tablets are just in the beginning stages and Apple will likely remain at the forefront of this product category for quite some time. And that's not to say the iPhone is dead. Far from it actually, as Apple continually sells millions of units per quarter.

Before we collectively write off Apple, Cook and the rest of this Silicon Valley giant, let's wait until the second half of 2013. Cook specifically said in the first quarter conference call that he's "very excited for what we've got planned for this fall and throughout 2014."

Maybe the new products will be a flop. Maybe they'll stink and growth will be extinct. But I'm going to give it a shot and say that they won't. The share repurchase has pumped new life into the stock. The crack below $400 shook out a lot of short-term longs, while only leaving long-term shareholders in the name. It also opened the door for new money to come in.

While the next quarter might come in a little subpar, let's see what Apple has to offer. The stuff up the company's sleeve doesn't have to change the world -- although, that would be nice -- it just has to be a great product that people want.

Either evolutionary or revolutionary will work, according to David Tepper, founder and CIO of Appaloosa Management. But as he went on to say, "If they don't do either, we've got a problem."

And for those of you who loved Steve Jobs, thought he could do no wrong and can't stand the current CEO Cook, remember one thing: Jobs picked him.

At the time of publication, Kenwell was long Apple call options.

-- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich. .

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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