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Tim Cook: An Innovator Continues Down His Own Path

Clearly the naysayers had it wrong when they predicted doom and gloom for Apple in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death in 2011.

His successor, Tim Cook, was seen by many as a less-than-impressive choice — an operations guy, not an inventor — and many assumed Apple’s extraordinary string of innovation was about to dry up.

However Cook has done anything but rest on Apple’s laurels and, in 2014, he took the company to even greater heights.

How great? After an audacious 7-for-1 stock split in June, Apple’s market capitialization continued to climb. By early December, the value of outstanding shares approached $700 billion, making it one of the highest-valued companies in history.

Since Cook became CEO, Apple’s market cap has increased by more than $300 billion.

Meantime, the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus was one of Apple’s most successful introductions in company history, with sales of 10 million units during the opening weekend. Analysts see holiday sales topping 70 million units this year.

Cook also oversaw a string of ambitious steps forward in the company’s product pipeline.

Wearables is the next frontier as Apple’s smart watch is slated for a 2015 debut, which analysts predicted could light a fire under the wearables space.

Similarly, Apple Pay, included in the new generation of iPhones, is expected by many to ignite consumer adoption of nascent m-commerce technology.

Apple’s acquistion of Beats Electronics not only set a new course for the company, by buying a consumer hardware brand lock, stock and barrel, but the real prize is likely still to come as Apple incorporates the Beats subscription music service into iTunes and iOS, presenting a low-priced streaming service to a huge embedded customer base.

If that weren’t enough, Cook’s biggest big victory may be the inroads he has made in taking Apple to the world’s largest and fastest-growing consumer market: China.

Various reports pegged preorders of the iPhone 6 in China at 2.5 million units, worth about $3 billion in revenue to Apple. But that is likely just the beginning, as 4G mobile service in the country, which launched only this year, becomes available to tens of millions of new customers each month.

As of the end of October, Apple had launched the iPhone 6 in 69 countries and was on track to reach 115 by the end of the year, its fastest international rollout ever, according to report in Forbes.

From a more personal perspective, Cook’s 2014 was also a watershed for his public persona. When Cook publicly came out as gay this year, the response from the public was almost overwhelmingly positive.

Apple has been an outspoken corporate supporter of LGBT rights for a number of years, and now Cook has become one of the key faces of the defining civil rights movement of our time.

This month, Alabama legislators introduced the “Tim Cook” bill, which would bar discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state employees, including school teachers, Reuters reported.

A statement from Apple confirmed that Cook was “honored” to have his name attached to the bill.

See the rest of TWICE’s 2014 Newsmakers Of The Year:

Apple’s Tim Cook: An Innovator Continues Down His Own Path

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: Another Busy Year For Amazon’s Chief Exec

T-Mobile’s John Legere: The Un-CEO Among Carriers, With An Attitude

Google’s Larry Page: Pivoting A Behemoth In A New Direction

Office Depot’s Roland Smith: Retail Chief Staples Two Former Rivals

RadioShack’s Joe Magnacca: Fighting The Good Fight At Retail

LG’s William Cho: Leading The Way In OLED TV

Logitech’s Bracken Darrell: The Architect Of An Astounding Turnaround

President Obama: Tying A Lightning Rod To The Internet

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler: Stirring It Up

Kickstarter’s Yancey Strickler: Kicking Off A New Revolution In Start-ups

Electrolux’s Keith McCloughlin: A Majaps Chief Executive In The Catbird Seat

Gibson’s Henry Juszkiewicz: Extending His Home-Audio Influence

Voxx’s Pat Lavelle: A Stalwart Continues To Reinvent Itself

SMS Audio’s Brian Nohe: Carving Out A Niche, One Head At A Time