CEO Tim Cook talks Apple Watch, Apple corporate culture in new interview

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2015
In an interview published Wednesday, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook discussed a slew of topics ranging from Apple corporate culture, to the prospects for the Apple Watch, to whether the company's all-encompassing product ecosystem is still manageable.




Speaking with Fast Company, Cook claimed that his company is continuing to follow many of the philosophies set by co-founder Steve Jobs.

"Steve felt that most people live in a small box," he said. "They think they can't influence or change things a lot. I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I've ever met, Steve never accepted that."

Cook also reiterated the position that Apple is more concerned with making the "best products in the world," rather than focusing on quantity or sales numbers.

"When Apple looks at what categories to enter, we ask these kinds of questions: What are the primary technologies behind this? What do we bring? Can we make a significant contribution to society with this? If we can't, and if we can't own the key technologies, we don't do it," he added. "That philosophy comes directly from him [Jobs] and it still very much permeates the place."

Apple regularly acquires other companies as it prepares to introduce new products and features. The Beats takeover, for instance, is expected to lead to an on-demand iTunes music service.

On the Apple Watch, Cook said that the main mistake committed by other smartwatch makers is relying on smartphone gestures, rather than creating an interface uniquely tailored to a small screen.

"Try to do those [phone gestures] on a watch and you quickly find out they don't work," he noted. That led to the creation of concepts such as Force Touch, which triggers different UI elements based on how firmly someone presses down on the display. The technology is already spreading to MacBook trackpads, and could come to the iPhone.

The CEO argues that the Apple Watch will be the "first modern smartwatch -- the first one that matters," and that the people skeptical of its cost, usefulness, and market demand aren't much different from those who doubted the iPod. Regardless, in contrast with the iPhone, Apple isn't setting any marketshare goals.

"The watch needs the iPhone 5, 6, or 6 Plus to work, which creates a ceiling. But I think it's going to do well. I'm excited about it. I've been using it every day and I don't want to be without it," Cook commented. He also suggested that third-party app support would be essential to success, which is why WatchKit was released to developers last November.

When asked if the Apple product ecosystem is beginning to become unwieldy, since it now combines hardware, software, media content, and cloud services, Cook contended that Apple is avoiding the mistake of Microsoft by being willing to abandon from older technologies like DVD drives and 30-pin connectors.

He nevertheless admitted that as much as Apple tries to hide the complexity and engineering difficulty of its ecosystem from users, there are gaffes. "But that, too, we will fix," he charged.

He also acknowledged that Apple, like Steve Jobs, has sometimes flipped positions on topics. "Yes, there will be things where we say something and two years later we'll feel totally different. Actually, there may be things we say that we may feel totally different about in a week. We're okay with that. Actually, we think it's good that we have the courage to admit it."

One of the best-known examples is screen size. For the iPhone 5 and 5s, Apple went with a 4-inch display, even as some competing Android and Windows phones were exceeding 5 inches. The company even marketed its screens as easier to use, but jettisoned that policy last year by shipping the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

Cook lastly noted that Apple has left Jobs' old office largely untouched, down to the nameplate, the desk, and even whiteboard drawings made by his daughter Eve. He typically avoids going in, and doesn't know what the company will do with the space in the long run. "I don't know. His name should still be on the door. That's just the way it should be. That's what felt right to me."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    For the second time in recent weeks, Cook is gently lowering our expectations for the Apple Watch.

    By saying that sales figures aren't important, he is, as the article notes, going in direct contrast to the advent of the iPhone, where Jobs set Apple a very specific target to hit—10 million. Jobs also aimed for 1% of the mobile phone market.

    It's good to see Cook admitting that he has the courage to change his mind on a dime, as Jobs did, if the situation changes. This will allow for the lowering of the Apple Watch prices, once it is clear that they are not selling. I expect this to become apparent within the first six months.

    It's also good to see him reminiscing on Jobs's old office. It's a nice homage to the great man. I like to think that Cook will earn a similar level of recognition in due course, though perhaps in a different way. Perhaps an aluminium cauldron. ????
  • Reply 2 of 56
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,128member
    I think the ?Watch will do well too. But it's not like the iPod, or the iPhone, nor the iPad in my mind.

    Everybody had a cell phone before the iPhone. Not everyone has a watch, or even wants one. The iPad likewise replaces the computer for many people -- it's a simpler, more convenient, and cheaper interface for what they're already using.
    People were buying MP3 players before the iPod came along, but they weren't easy to use. It wasn't the iPod itself that really changed Apple's destiny, it was iTunes and the ease of organizing all that music onto the iPod.

    Now I suppose one could liken the superior software and ease of use of the ?Watch to the iPod/iTunes phenomenon and the current smartwatch industry. But everybody listens to music, and slowly but surely they were going to replace their Walkmans with MP3 players. In a world where watches are not worn by a large demographic, and those who do for many different reasons, the prospect of a smart watch does not seem initially compelling. It's not necessarily improving the lives of someone already using a watch, or a smart watch/device.

    If anything in Apple's history, I see this more like the Apple II or Mac. It does things that many people are not already doing on their wrist. People had typewriters, photocopiers and calculators ... Why did they need expensive computers? And not everybody even needed a typewriter. But the computer could do more than just type letters, or calculate numbers. And now 30 years later almost everybody has one in their pocket. The ?Watch is far more than a fitness tracker, or watch, or a two-way pager. And it's going to take a while for people to figure out that they even need it -- not like the iPod or iPhone where it was the obvious way to go for a widespread population already using such devices.
  • Reply 3 of 56
    Cook sounded very defensive in this interview.

    I guess he's experiencing what Jobs went through. Jobs was said to be depressed at the advent of the iPad because so many people were down on it in the media. How satisfying that he lived to see its success, albeit tinged with sadness that he didn't live to see its stratospheric rise after October 5th, 2011.

    It would be great if the Apple Watch were to play out the same way. Sadly, it's highly unlikely to happen.
  • Reply 4 of 56
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,028member
    The CEO argues that the Apple Watch will be the "first modern smartwatch -- the first one that matters,"

    Yep. First one that "matters" is correct. The rest will be relegated to history books in short order, just like every other smartphone, tablet, and computer out there that did absolutely nothing to shift or influence the course of those industries. Apple is literary the only one who has dictated the core advances in all these products, which then permeated the industry.

    And BF, it's obviously not worth responding to you, but I'm sure you're aware how intellectually dishonest you're being, by citing the ONLY product example where jobs made any mention of market share goals- which was only for the purpose of showing how large the market was, and how even a tiny percentage is considered a massive success. If anything, he was lowering expectations. He didn't do it with the mac, iPod, the iPad, or anything else, but that fact wouldn't help your agenda. And of course, if Cook did set a sales goal (which would be such a moronic and limiting thing to do in this context) then you would of course be squealing about how it's evidence that Cook is all about sales numbers, and Steve was only focused on product quality.
  • Reply 5 of 56
    It's not like they plan to abandon Infinite Loop, Jobs's office can stay where it is.
  • Reply 6 of 56

    The first iPhone sold about 5 Million units in the first year of sales... And this number was large enough to consider the product a great success!

     

    The Apple Watch goes on sale next month, and I wouldn't be surprised if it sold 5 Million in the first MONTH of sales. But even if it "only" sells that 5 Million in the first 3 months, it would be ironic if people called the first Apple Watch a "failure", even though it sold 4-times FASTER than the first iPhone did.

     

    <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" /> 

  • Reply 7 of 56
    slurpy wrote: »
    The CEO argues that the Apple Watch will be the "first modern smartwatch -- the first one that matters,"

    Yep. First one that "matters" is correct. The rest will be relegated to history books in short order, just like every other smartphone, tablet, and computer out there that did absolutely nothing to shift or influence the course of those industries. Apple is literary the only one who has dictated the core advances in all these products, which then permeated the industry.

    And BF, it's obviously not worth responding to you, but I'm sure you're aware how intellectually dishonest you're being, by citing the ONLY product example where jobs made any mention of market share goals- which was only for the purpose of showing how large the market was, and how even a tiny percentage is considered a massive success. If anything, he was lowering expectations. He didn't do it with the mac, iPod, the iPad, or anything else, but that fact wouldn't help your agenda. And of course, if Cook did set a sales goal (which would be such a moronic and limiting thing to do in this context) then you would of course be squealing about how it's evidence that Cook is all about sales numbers, and Steve was only focused on product quality.

    Okay; I’ll do Tim Cook's job for him.

    The watch market is 1.3 billion. Here's your target, Cook: 13 million in the first year, which is 1% of the market.

    That wasn't so hard, was it?
  • Reply 8 of 56
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member

    Steve really had the guts to do crazy stuff. Really crazy. The first iMac was an example of a company on the verge of bankruptcy and it comes out with a computer that was totally unlike anything else and had USB ports that hardly anyone was using. Or deciding to do away with their most popular iPod and going with a completely new one (less radical, but other companies would have kept the old and new models).

     

    Steve was able to see things well and take a risk at going for them. Apple after he left in the 80's did a little of that.

     

    It must be hard now with your technology visionary gone and your corporation is at the top of its game. I bet its no fun up there in a lot of ways. Kind of like coming out with a dozen hit records and you are the top act and they you have to top yourself.

     

    Also, you have the issue of sustaining the stock prices and keeping shareholders happy. Maybe when Apple subsides to go from a growth company to somewhat of a sustaining company, dividends will increase and it will be a respected "aristocrat" corporation that pays out reliable dividends.

     

    Is Tim getting nervous? Is he and the other VPs getting concerned? Are they trying to say everything without saying anything? Admitting they have complexity they haven't hidden from customers, but the "will fix it."? I think he was saying a lot about many things to cover his bets and also pointing his finger to the Apple spirit created by Jobs. Being dodgy? Anyway, he seems to be really hitting the talk circuit a lot rather than letting the product create its own buzz (through Apple being quiet) and letting the products sell themselves.

     

    MacBooks are looking good. They need to trim the line. It seems like a confusing mess. We need some simplicity in product line-up.

  • Reply 9 of 56
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pfisher View Post

     

    Steve really had the guts to do crazy stuff. Really crazy. The first iMac was an example of a company on the verge of bankruptcy and it comes out with a computer that was totally unlike anything else and had USB ports that hardly anyone was using. Or deciding to do away with their most popular iPod and going with a completely new one (less radical, but other companies would have kept the old and new models).

     

    Steve was able to see things well and take a risk at going for them. Apple after he left in the 80's did a little of that.

     

    It must be hard now with your technology visionary gone and your corporation is at the top of its game. I bet its no fun up there in a lot of ways. Kind of like coming out with a dozen hit records and you are the top act and they you have to top yourself.

     

    Also, you have the issue of sustaining the stock prices and keeping shareholders happy. Maybe when Apple subsides to go from a growth company to somewhat of a sustaining company, dividends will increase and it will be a respected "aristocrat" corporation that pays out reliable dividends.

     

    Is Tim getting nervous? Is he and the other VPs getting concerned? Are they trying to say everything without saying anything? Admitting they have complexity they haven't hidden from customers, but the "will fix it."? I think he was saying a lot about many things to cover his bets and also pointing his finger to the Apple spirit created by Jobs. Being dodgy? Anyway, he seems to be really hitting the talk circuit a lot rather than letting the product create its own buzz (through Apple being quiet) and letting the products sell themselves.

     

    MacBooks are looking good. They need to trim the line. It seems like a confusing mess. We need some simplicity in product line-up.




    A confusing mess? You have three laptops, three desktops. Pardon me while I recover from this "confusing mess". :no: Clearly Steve never would have had three laptops and three desktops.

  • Reply 10 of 56
    It's going to be a long time before a watch can do what a phone can do. I don't see how that will ever be possible without some kind of private holographic projection system.
  • Reply 11 of 56
    macapfelmacapfel Posts: 478member
    I think AppleWatch will be like the MacBook Air: slow start, mediocre reviews - but the future.
  • Reply 12 of 56
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     

     

    You are thinking WAY to short term.

     

    The watch or some other wearable will replace the Smartphone.

     

    That's the long game. 

     

    That's the bottom line.

     

    The Watch is the first generation of wearables that will eventually replace smartphones.


    You sound ridiculous. 

     

    The dishwasher didn't replace the sink. The microwave didn't replace the oven.

     

    The iWatch is built and designed to be a companion device. You may have noticed that there's no internet browser on the watch. From now on, I will forever want an internet browser in my pocket. As will many others.

  • Reply 13 of 56
    sog35, you are precisely right.

    The future has devices disappearing into clothing and a variety of components networked around ones' body and environment.

    The 'internet of things' doesn't begin at the fridge, it begins in your pocket, on your wrist and so on. We could see modularity at the granularity of anything that takes a part of that personal area network (PAN). So we might have a single item that acts as the conduit of data to the internet, another that acts as a visual presenter (on the wrist perhaps) that might beam in a large virtual screen into the eyes, like 'Glass' but not always sitting in ones field of vision, rather something one brings into ones visual field when it is needed. Similarly for the sense of hearing.

    The future will be one of personal augmentation with a network of devices and Apple is uniquely positioned to exploit this as it, more than anyone else, understands the interaction of technology with people's needs, aesthetic as well as functional.
  • Reply 14 of 56
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,600member
    Nobody knows what Steve would have or would not have done. To imply otherwise is pure fantasy and conjecture.

    Tim is a master of execution and leveraging the value in the Apple ecosystem. This allows Apple to fully realize the potential of every product that becomes part of the ecosystem. We won't know in a quarter or even a year whether the Apple Watch has attributed value to the bigger picture. Even seemingly garage shop hobby projects like Apple TV have done very well by leveraging the ecosystem and providing attributed value as another touch point for media and content consumption. I expect the Apple Watch will uncover similar hidden potentials that the pundits, self anointed experts, and those with permanent butt scarring from having been consistently wrong about Apple's motivations and abilities will once again be provided with ample evidence that makes the rest of us thank god that they aren't the ones calling the shots with other people's money at stake.

    Thank you Tim for the insight into Apple culture even though the notion of a shrine to Steve is a bit creepy.
  • Reply 15 of 56
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,028member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jurassic View Post

     

    The first iPhone sold about 5 Million units in the first year of sales... And this number was large enough to consider the product a great success!

     

    The Apple Watch goes on sale next month, and I wouldn't be surprised if it sold 5 Million in the first MONTH of sales. But even if it "only" sells that 5 Million in the first 3 months, it would be ironic if people called the first Apple Watch a "failure", even though it sold 4-times FASTER than the first iPhone did.

     

    <img class=" src="http://forums-files.appleinsider.com/images/smilies//lol.gif" /> 


     

    iPhone needed 3 months to sell 1M. 

    iPad needed 1 month. 

    This product will do that in days, if not less than a day. 

     

    But you can be sure agenda driven trolls like BF will be sure to ignore all history and context in their metrics of success or failure. 

  • Reply 16 of 56
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,028member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DewMe View Post



    Nobody knows what Steve would have or would not have done. To imply otherwise is pure fantasy and conjecture.



    Tim is a master of execution and leveraging the value in the Apple ecosystem. This allows Apple to fully realize the potential of every product that becomes part of the ecosystem. We won't know in a quarter or even a year whether the Apple Watch has attributed value to the bigger picture. Even seemingly garage shop hobby projects like Apple TV have done very well by leveraging the ecosystem and providing attributed value as another touch point for media and content consumption. I expect the Apple Watch will uncover similar hidden potentials that the pundits, self anointed experts, and those with permanent butt scarring from having been consistently wrong about Apple's motivations and abilities will once again be provided with ample evidence that makes the rest of us thank god that they aren't the ones calling the shots with other people's money at stake.



    Thank you Tim for the insight into Apple culture even though the notion of a shrine to Steve is a bit creepy.

     

    Excellent post. You get it. Raw sales, at least initially, are never that relevant. It's how the product grows over time, how it enhances the ecosystem, adds value to it, and in the end directly and indirectly benefits every single Apple product.

  • Reply 17 of 56
    Well this interview is just in time for the NY Times' latest hit-piece.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/style/could-wearable-computers-be-as-harmful-as-cigarettes.html

    The article would have us believe that just because it took 30 years for the dangers of smoking to become apparent, that knowledge is re-set with every product, and it will take 30 years to find out if there are any hazards to wearables. It's scare-mongering and trolling, pure and simple.

    Here are some of the nonsense gems from this article:
    ** "as long as a wearable does not have a 3G connection built into it, the harmful effects are minimal"
    ** "cellphones, which give off low levels of radiation, could lead to brain tumors, cancer, disturbed blood rhythms and other health problems"
    ** "I definitely won't let any children I know play with it for extended periods"
    ** "the farther away a device is from one's head, the less harmful... is why we've been told to use hands-free devices when talking on cellphones."

    And here I always thought the hands-free devices were advised to help manage distracted driving. I'm sure of it, in fact.

    This article would be great fodder for the Macalope.
  • Reply 18 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post

     
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post





    Okay; I’ll do Tim Cook's job for him.



    The watch market is 1.3 billion. Here's your target, Cook: 13 million in the first year, which is 1% of the market.



    That wasn't so hard, was it?

     

    WRONG.

     

    Its the SMART-WATCH market NOT the watch market.  The smartwatch market last year was under 2 million.

     

    That's like adding in Landline/rotary phones to the smartphone total Jobs was shooting for.


     

     

    No.

     

    Jobs cited the mobile phone market, not the smartphone market. As such, it is reasonable to cite the watch market as opposed to the smartwatch market.

     

    So my original figures still stand correct.

  • Reply 19 of 56
    I think this was an amazing interview by Cook and goes a long way to showing that he knows exactly what's he's doing and that Apple is in good hands. I've been a skeptic of that but the recent interviews and actions Apple has taken has gone a long way with me.
  • Reply 20 of 56
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    sog35 wrote: »
    WRONG.

    Its the SMART-WATCH market NOT the watch market.  The smartwatch market last year was under 2 million.

    That's like adding in Landline/rotary phones to the smartphone total Jobs was shooting for.

    exactly. If BJ was half as smart as he thinks he is, he'd be doing something noteworthy with his life by now, not trolling AI.

    I blocked the troll.
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