Time magazine announced Wednesday that President Obama has been anointed its "Person of the Year" for 2012. But there among the four runners-up was Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook.

The folks at Apple may not like to finish second to anyone, but coming in just behind the president is still pretty good. And Cook is in interesting company, as the other runners-up include the new president of Egypt, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head for protesting, and the woman who was part of a team of scientists that isolated the Higgs boson particle.

For Cook, 2012 was his first full calendar year as CEO after the resignation and death of Steve Jobs last year. It was probably a long shot that Time would pick Cook for POY, since it selected another techie, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, as POY just two years ago.

In highlighting Cook this year, Time wrote:


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"When Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011, of pancreatic cancer, there were questions about whether Cook could lead Apple. Some, myself included, wondered whether Apple was even a viable company without Jobs. Since then Cook has gone about his business apparently unintimidated by his role as successor to one of the greatest innovators in history. Cook's record hasn't been flawless, but he has presided in a masterly way over both a thorough, systematic upgrading of each of the company's major product lines and a run-up in the company's financial fortunes that can only be described as historic."

But in particular, the magazine singles out Cook's actions related to China this past year: "The real story of Apple in 2012 may be what Cook has done in China."

In this case, Time refers both to Cook's response to questions about the labor practices of its manufacturing partners there and to the growing sales of iPhones and other Apple products in China:

"Jobs never visited the country where most of Apple's products are built, at least not in any official capacity, but as a manufacturing guy Cook is an old China hand, and on his watch Apple has broken out as a consumer brand there."

Time's "People Who Mattered in 2012" list (the runners-up to the runners-up) also included two notable tech names: Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer.