Main image of article What Will Happen When Apple CEO Tim Cook Retires?

Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly suggested a vague timeframe for when he might leave the company. That’s not just a big deal for folks who work at Apple: Whoever succeeds him will make decisions that could impact developers and manufacturers for many years to come.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman (hat tip to 9to5Mac for the link), Cook himself has said he “probably” won’t be at Apple within a decade. Meanwhile, other sources within the company told Gurman that Cook intends to stay at the helm through the launch of one more big product category.

Apple is rumored to be working on a handful of cutting-edge initiatives, including augmented-reality glasses and a car (or a car’s onboard software, depending on which scuttlebutt you believe). Whether one of those products launches within the next two years or the next 10, Cook won’t stick around forever—and at a company as big as Apple, it’s a sure thing that succession planning has already been well underway for some time.

Whoever succeeds Tim Cook at Apple, they’ll face a number of issues over the next several years. For example, Apple has been making steady progress at integrating iOS and macOS into a shared ecosystem of apps and services; any missteps along that long-term roadmap could damage the reputation of iOS, as well as prevent macOS from building up a substantial developer following. In addition, there’s a constant tug-of-war between Apple and its third-party developers over the App Store’s terms and commissions, which likely won’t abate anytime soon (if ever). 

Last but certainly not least, there’s also the omnipresent chance of disruption. Back in 2007, the launch of the iPhone upended the mobile market and forced a huge paradigm shift in personal computing. Apple’s dominance of that market plowed under many smartphone and tablet competitors while opening up new opportunities to technologists everywhere. It’s never outside the realm of possibility that another company could introduce a technology that changes everything all over again—and leaves Apple at a disadvantage.

While it’s likely that Cook won’t leave for at least a few years, he faces big issues besides launching a new product (whatever that might be) and ensuring Apple’s current lineup continues to sell—various governments have expressed interest in antitrust and/or tax investigations against the company, presenting lots of thorny conundrums. Good thing he’s well-compensated for his trouble