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4 Areas Where Apple's Cook Could Outperform Jobs

Editor's note: As part of our partnership with PBS's Nightly Business Report, TheStreet's James Rogers joined NBR Monday (watch video and read transcript here) to look at ways Apple's new CEO Tim Cook could step out of Steve Jobs' considerable shadow.

CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) new CEO Tim Cook has an unenviable job stepping into the shoes of tech icon Steve Jobs, but he has plenty of scope to make his mark on the company built by his mentor.

"Tim Cook has a different personality than Steve Jobs, and I think that he might be open to more options than Steve Jobs," explained Allen Nogee, an analyst at tech research firm In-Stat. "He doesn't want to depart too much from Steve Jobs' [vision], at least initially, but I think as time goes by we will see more deviation."

Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO

More reserved than the fiery and flamboyant Jobs, Cook nonetheless built an impressive reputation during his time role as Apple's COO. With the iPhone maker set to announce its fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, though, investors are eager to see glimpses of the 50-year old's management style, not to mention his long-term plans for Apple.

Steve Jobs, Silicon Valley's greatest innovator, will be an impossible act to follow, although experts have identified key areas where Cook could outperform his iconic predecessor.

Carve Up the Cash

Apple remains one of the few holdouts in the tech sector that avoids dividend payments , preferring instead to sit astride its vast $76.2 billion cash pile.

The tech giant stopped paying dividends in 1995, opting to focus on growth at a time when the company was facing stiff competition from the likes of Microsoft (MSFT). More than a decade and a half later, though, Apple is tech's biggest hitter but still maintains an aversion to dividends.

With the CEO change, there are calls for the gadget maker to rethink this strategy. TheStreet reader Carrie Pollock, for example, urged Cook to implement a dividend or a stock split, in response to a question posted on Facebook.
Word on the Street

This issue, however, has divided investors, with some arguing that the size of the Apple cash mountain is now hard to justify. Other investors, though, see Apple's cash haul as providing security and the flexibility needed to extend the company's product line.

A share buyback, which would be immediately accretive to Apple's earnings, would also be an option, although there have been no indications of Apple going down that road.

Last October, during Apple's fourth-quarter 2010 conference call, Jobs explained that the company was keeping hold of its cash for "one or more strategic opportunities" in the future. Whether this involves a major acquisition or the development of expensive new technology is unclear. Either way, expect analysts to quiz Cook on Apple's cash plan during the company's fourth-quarter conference call.

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