Tim Cook had
perhaps his first big test at the 10th annual All Things Digital Conference
(DX). Sure, he presided as CEO over the press conference last October when the
iPhone 4S was unveiled, but Steve Jobs died one day later.
The company was still very much under Jobs’
influence despite his officially stepping down as CEO. Cook’s interview during
the DX was a big test for him, as well as a preview of the 2012 Worldwide
Throughout the interview, Cook wasn’t shy
about admitting to his feelings for Jobs and showing that, while he is very
much in control, Jobs’ influence will continue on. With a broken voice, Cook
started that the day Jobs died was the saddest day of his life. Throughout this
time, though, he learned that “the joy is in the journey.” He seemed to learn
as much professionally as personally. “Life is fragile; tomorrow isn’t
guaranteed, so give today your all.”
As much as we have heard that Jobs could be
difficult to work with, he was never too big to admit when he was wrong. Cook
found it to be a courageous thing for Jobs to be able to admit to such things.
In fact, Cook called Jobs’ ability to change his mind 180 degrees an “art”.
From Jobs, Cook learned that focus is the
key in both products and in personal life. It’s important to do a few things
great, and cast everything else off, as it’s better to have the best product,
than to have a product that is good or very good. He spoke of the “unique
culture of excellence” at Apple and promised that as CEO he would not witness
or permit the change of that standard. Instead of focusing on the past, he will
focus on the next thing.
Cook and Steve Jobs (right)
Yet, Jobs didn’t want everyone sitting
around and continuing to see him as the leader of the company long after he was
gone. He related a story to Cook of being around Disney when Walt died. Every
time a decision needed to be made or something needed to be done, everyone sat
around asking “What would Walt do?” Jobs didn’t want the same for Apple. He
didn’t want them sitting around asking, “What would Steve do?”
As far as his role now, Cook doesn’t
believe it is to replace Jobs, noting that there will never be another Steve
Jobs. He sees himself as just a great CEO of Apple, and he relishes every
moment of it, referring to his job as his oxygen. The curator role at Apple
moves among different people. Cook reveals that it’s always been that way. It’s
a myth that Jobs did it all. He believes that Jobs’ legacy will be in the
standard of people he brought into the company, believing that’s what makes it
what it is.
This brings up the question of how Cook
himself was brought in. Jobs had hired an executive search firm, and they found
Cook. They kept calling him and did not give up. He eventually gave in and flew
out to California one weekend, as he was so busy he didn’t have time to do it
during the week. What he saw when visiting the company was a strategy of taking
the company to a place where no one else was. Within just five minutes of
talking to Jobs, Cook wanted in. Apple is the only company he ever saw where
angry customers would call up and yell, and yell loudy, but still come back.
Compaq customers just moved on to Dell, and Dell customers to IBM. The brands didn’t
have the same following.
And because of that, Cook isn’t worried
about changing things up a little bit. He knows that he has the freedom to do
that, having been granted that by Jobs himself. He explained, “Of course I’m
going to change things.”
course I’m going to change things.”
We already saw the start of that last year
when Cook announced a matching gift program, then earlier this year a dividend
and share buyback program. Jobs was aware of the matching gift program and was
completely in agreement with it. Apple has a lot of money, so Cook thinks they
should share it. There aren’t too many people who could argue with that. Going
beyond that, his focus is on social change and supplier accountability.
Yet the overall goal of Apple isn’t to make
revenue. Instead it’s to build great products. Cook sees the focus as being on
innovation, just where it’s always been. This is how the company has built
itself up. There are over seventy million customers with iPhones because of
that focus on being the best and not just selling the most. The iPod introduced
people who had never been Mac fans to Apple, bringing developers in as well.
Yet they are in no way close to being in the beginning phase.
This, of course, brings up the obvious
question of what’s on the horizon for Apple. Cook couldn’t tip anyone off as to
what’s coming in the future, even a few days into the future of the WWDC, but
did share a few thoughts on some of the existing product and some of the
rumored products, as well as competitors’ products.
Apple invented the iPad, but did not invent
the tablet market. It was already there. Cook does not see the tablet as
something that will replace computers and believes they are instead extending
the purchasing cycle, as consumers will buy tablets in the interim years
between buying computers. Yet, there are things you can do with a table that
you can’t do with a PC, and that’s what has created the market.
CEO Tim Cook introduces the new iPad, 2012
As far as the converged design coming out
from other companies, Cook doesn’t see that as something that will work well,
and does not believe it will become a “kick ass product.” If the tablet and PC
are forced together in a product, he doesn’t believe either will works as well
as they do separately.
Looking at the iPhone, Cooked stated that
the iPhone is the best mobile phone on the market, and he sees all the momentum
in the industry being between the iPhone and Android. In his opinion, Android’s
problems rest in the lack of developers to focus as Apple has done. Again,
their goal is to be the best, and not in how many models they have. He sees the
amount of different models of Android phones as leading to them having a lesser
product. The Apple process is more simple, one phone, one store, one operating
This brought up two questions, why is there
only one model of iPhone and not a cheaper version, and why does the iPod have
multiple models. Cook did not rule out a cheaper iPhone at some point in the
future, which leads to the question of the availability of a cheaper, smaller
iPad in the very near future. He doesn’t feel the iPod Shuffle was born out of
looking for a smaller, lesser-priced product; he just sees it as a great
The talk turned to the television products,
both Apple TV, and the upcoming television, without them ever mentioning it per
se. he stated at the start of the discussion that they weren’t a hobby company,
and if a product didn’t find success, they move on. The 1080p high-definition
capability of Apple TV has now doubled the sales of the product so far this
year. Obviously, it’s not a product that will require them to move on. They’re
sticking with it.
Cook also spoke about developing a
television product without actually saying that’s what he was talking about.
When developing a new product, they look to see if they can control key
technology, if they can do it ahead of others, and if they can create a product
that they themselves would want to own. He was asked why they don’t look into
streaming content. He compared it to what happened to the music industry. He
doesn’t want content owners getting ripped off by people stealing content the
ways they were with music. Putting that aside, he doesn’t think Apple has to
own a content business. He believes they should instead create a relationship
with those who could provide them that content.
relationship of Apple and Facebook
This brings up the relationship of Apple
and Facebook. Cook believes the relationship is very solid and hinted that
there could be more between the companies in the near future. While it’s very
solid, he mentioned that they don’t have Facebook integration yet, as they now
have with Twitter, so perhaps that’s something that’s currently in negotiation.
Regarding Ping, Cook said they don’t need to own a social business, but he
thinks they should be social. They tried going somewhere with Ping, but the
customers voted that Apple didn’t seem to put enough effort into it.
When asked why the company doesn’t move all
of its production to China, Cook responded that they decided there were things
they could do better than anyone else, negating the need to send it out. They
make as much as they can in the United States. Right now on the back of the
iPhone, they could put the words, “Several Parts from the U.S.,” and it would
be a valid statement.
Developers are a very important part of the
overall process. Prior to 2007, no one knew what apps were. However, it would
now take a football stadium to hold all of the people making apps. He sees that
as being a significant difference over what you see with the PC market where
development doesn’t seem to be as important.
But the sharing of ideas continues to be a
sore point with Cook. He views the current patent situation as “a pain in the
ass,” and it’s clearly a topic he is quite passionate about. He is unwilling to
let Apple’s hard work be copied by other companies. He compares what he sees
happening as starting a painting and having someone else finish it and sticking
their name on it. He doesn’t want Apple to be the developer for the rest of the
CEO Tim Cook touring an iPhone production line at a Foxconn plant in China
The interviewers wanted to pin Cook down by
saying that sipping off goes both ways. They pointed to the face that Apple
gets used just as much as they sue other companies. Cook sees it as being
different, though, saying that Apple gets used over standard-essential patents,
and that makes him view the patent system as in disrepair. As an example, he
pointed at 3G technology. You can’t design a product without 3G, so he doesn’t
see that as a product companies should be able to get an injunction on. He
stated that Apple has never sued over stands-essential patents they own. Beyond
that, he refused to discuss other companies and what they were doing.
Operational efforts and product design are
Apple strengths, and Cook sees the company displaying a level of care he just
doesn’t see other places. He stated that if people are going to rip them off
blindly, he hopes it’s in their social accountability. That’s definitely an
area where Jobs didn’t seem to place a lot of focus. It was just never as much
of a goal for him as it seems to be with Cook.
This goes back to Cook’s statement of
changing things. Of course he’s going to; it’s his company now. Yet, he still
seems to be keeping Jobs as much of a part of the company as he can. He’s gone
but not forgotten, and still figures into the decisions. No one is sitting
around asking what Steve would do, but they are taking the company in the
direction he started.