Steve Jobs's medical leave from Apple ushers in a third stint in charge for his No 2 Tim Cook, the low-profile but highly regarded executive tipped to lead the company one day.
The 50-year-old Alabama native, who has been at the company since 1998, was seen as a safe bet to run Apple's day-to-day operations while Mr Jobs was away for medical reasons in 2009.
During that time, the company prospered and its stock jumped 60pc.
Although lacking Mr Jobs' showmanship -- he is not known for pitching products on stage -- Mr Cook is regarded as the effective force behind Apple's day-to-day operations.
But last week, it was Mr Cook, not Mr Jobs, who took the stage in New York to announce that the firm's popular iPhone would be available on the top US mobile operator Verizon.
"I spent some time with Tim Cook last week in New York, and walked away from my discussion with him thinking that he was much more in charge at Apple than people think," said Tim Bajarin, president of research firm Creative Strategies.
"He has emerged as a most competent person who could carry Steve Mr Jobs' vision into the future."
Apple investors and board of directors appear to agree.
The company's shares rose 60pc between Mr Jobs's last leave of absence between mid-January and late June 2009.
Its board awarded him a cash and stock bonus valued at about $22m for that stint, at Mr Jobs' recommendation, citing his "outstanding performance".
Mr Cook's total compensation for 2010 was $59m, mostly in stock awards, according to the company's latest filing with securities regulators.
Many believe Mr Cook will one day succeed Mr Jobs as CEO at Apple, although the company has never disclosed any succession plan.
"Since Mr Jobs returned to Apple, he has created a powerful management team that really does understand how he thinks, and his vision and direction for Apple," said Bajarin. "This team is more than capable of keeping that vision alive and continues to innovate well into the future."
Mr Cook, who also took the helm at Apple briefly in 2004, when Mr Jobs was recuperating from pancreatic surgery, was named chief operating officer in 2005.
He is credited with pulling Apple out of making its own devices and putting in place tight outsourcing agreements with manufacturers in China.