Fast Company has an extensive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, focusing on what has changed and what has stayed the same since he took over from Steve Jobs. The interview comes a day after FastCo published a sizeable excerpt from the book Becoming Steve Jobs, in which Cook criticized the portrayal of Jobs in Isaacson’s biography.
Cook said that while much has changed, the culture–the fundamental goal of the company–remained the same.
Steve felt that if Apple could do that—make great products and great tools for people—they in turn would do great things. He felt strongly that this would be his contribution to the world at large. We still very much believe that. That’s still the core of this company.
The company has never tried to be first to market, he said, but rather to “have the patience to get it right” …
Apple took the same approach to the Apple Watch as it took to the iPod, iPhone and iPad, he said.
We weren’t first on the MP3 player; we weren’t first on the tablet; we weren’t first on the smartphone. But we were arguably the first modern smartphone, and we will be the first modern smartwatch—the first one that matters.
Yes, but people didn’t realize they had to have an iPod, and they really didn’t realize they had to have the iPhone. And the iPad was totally panned. Critics asked, “Why do you need this?” Honestly, I don’t think anything revolutionary that we have done was predicted to be a hit when released. It was only in retrospect that people could see its value. Maybe this will be received the same way.
He admitted that it is harder for Apple to remain nimble, to resist bureaucracy, as the company has grown.
It’s harder, and you are fighting gravity. […] We’ve turned up the volume on collaboration because it’s so clear that in order for us to be incredibly successful we have to be the best collaborators in the world. The magic of Apple, from a product point of view, happens at this intersection of hardware, software, and services. It’s that intersection. Without collaboration, you get a Windows product […] That’s what’s now happening in Android land.
Part of the secret, Cook said, was a willingness to move on, to walk away from approaches that are no longer appropriate. Apple has repeatedly done this with legacy technologies.
Apple has always had the discipline to make the bold decision to walk away. We walked away from the floppy disk when that was popular with many users. Instead of doing things in the more traditional way of diversifying and minimizing risk, we took out the optical drive, which some people loved. We changed our connector, even though many people loved the 30-pin connector. Some of these things were not popular for quite a while. But you have to be willing to lose sight of the shore and go. We still do that.
Asked if there were areas in which the company had moved on from Steve’s way of doing things, he said that constant change was Steve’s way of doing things.
We change every day. We changed every day when he was here, and we’ve been changing every day since he’s not been here. But the core, the values in the core remain the same as they were in ’98, as they were in ’05, as they were in ’10. I don’t think the values should change. But everything else can change [and] Steve was the best flipper in the world.
Cook sees the new spaceship campus as essential to Apple’s future.
It’s critical that Apple do everything it can to stay informal. And one of the ways that you stay informal is to be together. One of the ways that you ensure collaboration is to make sure people run into each other—not just at the meetings that are scheduled on your calendar, but all the serendipitous stuff that happens every day in the cafeteria and walking around.
Steve’s office in the current campus building is famously still there, just as he left it. Will there be a Steve Jobs office in the new campus, he was asked?
What we’ll do over time, I don’t know. I didn’t want to move in there. I think he’s an irreplaceable person and so it didn’t feel right . . . for anything to go on in that office. So his computer is still in there as it was, his desk is still in there as it was, he’s got a bunch of books in there. Laurene took some things to the house.
I don’t know. His name should still be on the door. That’s just the way it should be.
While the interview does cover some familiar territory, the whole thing is well worth reading.
Photo: Pete Marovich, Getty Images