Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm.

The only question about Tim Cook: Will he be as good as Steve at saying “no”?

Tim CookAs CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs did many things very well, but the best was his ability to say “no” when defining Apple’s products and vision.

For example: The way he said “no” to a floppy drive for the iMac, “no” to a lot of carrier nonsense on the iPhone, “no” to Blu-ray, “no” to Flash, and “no” to a million other things we will never know about.

That is a big part of what will define the Tim Cook era now that he is officially CEO of Apple.

Can he be as selective about what Apple works on as Steve Jobs was? Can he say no to good ideas to create great ones? Can he tell brilliant people that their best work isn’t good enough, over and over, until they come back with something truly magical?

I think he can, at least better than anyone else.

And I think Cook best demonstrated his understanding of this on Apple’s earnings call in January, 2009, the last time he filled in for Steve Jobs on medical leave:

“We believe that we’re on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing. We’re constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make. And participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution. We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.

We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollenization of our groups which allow us to innovate in ways that others cannot. And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company — and we have the self honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.

And I think regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”

If Cook can stick to that mission — and I think he will — Apple is in great shape for years to come.

Earlier: “Jobs’s greatest creation isn’t any Apple product. It is Apple itself.”