When Tim Cook introduced the iPhone 4S on Oct. 4, 2011, it was the first update to Apple's popular smartphone line in almost a year and a half. The company had extra incentive to get it right given fierce competition from Google's Android platform.
History buffs will note that it also was the first Apple product launch since Cook took over from Steve Jobs. It was judged to be a competent product demo, though hardly one that would leave them talking about it years later. And there was no "and one more thing."
Cook traveled to China for -- well, Apple never officially said why. But speculation focused on the two carriers which offered Apple's handset, China Telecom and China Unicom. He might also have been in town to try to work out a deal with China Mobile.
But beyond that, Cook had some PR spade work to do as a result of the ongoing outcry over worker conditions at Chinese factories which make Apple products. Indeed, Cook did pay a visit to the new Foxconn manufacturing plant for the iPhone in Zhengzhou, China, which employs 120,000 people.
Apple's Tim Cook and Eddy Cue show off the company's new Apple TV streaming video box. Cook promoted Cue to senior VP of Internet software and services, which put him in charge of Apple's iTunes Store, iCloud, iAd, and the company's iBookstore platform.
Shareholders were wondering what Cook planned to do with Apple's more than $97 million in cash. In March, Apple announced that it would pay its first dividend since 1995.
"We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure," Cook said in a prepared statement.
"Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business. So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program," he added.
On Feb. 14, 2012, Cook made a rare appearance for an interview at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco. Although he discussed everything from worker safety to what the company plans to do with its growing pile of cash and liquid assets, Cook drew particular scrutiny for his comments about China.
In the aftermath of growing criticism of employee conditions at Chinese factories making Apple products, Cook only one day earlier requested an immediate inspection of facilities at Foxconn in China.
"No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple," Cook said, adding that he had personally spent "a lot of time" in factories, including a stint at a paper mill in Alabama as well as in an aluminum plant in Virginia.
Apple launches charitable donation program for employees
Cook instituted a company-wide charitable program that matches donations made by employees up to $10,000 a year. In a November 2011 profile, the Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed source who attended one of the company's off-site meeting the year before saying that Steve Jobs "was opposed to giving money away."
Cook also did something Jobs never did: He donated $100 million to charity.
Hires John Browett to head retail efforts -- non company insider
John Browett (left), the new retail chief at Apple, and Steve Cano, Apple's manager of retail stores, survey the launch day iPad line in San Francisco. The former CEO of European technology retailer Dixons senior vice president of retail was given responsibility for andling Apple's retail strategy and continuing Apple Store expansion worldwide.
This was a key selection. Browett filled the job left vacant by Ron Johnson, who was responsible for establishing Apple's retail stores. Johnson left to become CEO of J.C. Penney.
Cook says he's more keen to settle legal disputes, but that Apple is not the "developer for the world." During his first year as the boss, Apple takes a tough line with rivals it believes are infringing on its patents.
Apple became the most valuable company in U.S. history when its market value surpassed $600 billion on Aug. 17, 2012. Even more remarkable, the milestone came only 15 years after the company was on the brink of bankruptcy.