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New Interview with Apple's CEO gives us Fresh Insights into what's Important at Apple

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Yesterday Patently Apple covered Fast Company's list of top innovators in the market where Apple was placed #1 for "Delivering the Future Today." Fast Company kept the best for last, with an in-depth interview with Apple's CEO Tim Cook who covered a lot of ground. Some of the key insights found in the Fast Company interview are presented in today's report.


Fast Company (FC): What makes a good year for Apple? Is it the new hit products? The stock price?


Tim Cook (TC): Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it's about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people's lives? If you're doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.


FC: So what does matter?


TC: It's always products and people. The question at the end of every year, or every month or every week or every day, is, Did we make progress on that front?


FC: Given the relentless pace of change in the world, how do you prioritize what Apple is going to spend its time on, which things deserve attention and which things are distractions?


TC: There is more noise in the world than change. One of my roles is to try to block the noise from the people who are really doing the work. That's tougher and tougher in this environment. The priorities are about saying no to a bunch of great ideas. We can do more things than we used to do because we're a bit bigger. But in the scheme of things versus our revenue, we're doing very few things. I mean, you could put every product we're making on this table, to put it in perspective. I doubt anybody that is anywhere near our revenue could say that.


You have to make sure that you're focused on the thing that matters. And we do that fair­­ly well. I worked at a company a while back, many years ago, where every hallway you go in, you would see their stock price being monitored. You will not find that here. And not because you can get it on your iPhone.


FC: So what compels you to wow consumers year after year with new products?


TC: What drives us is making products that give people the ability to do things they couldn't do before. Take iPhone X, the portrait-lighting feature. This is something that you had to be a professional photographer with a certain setup to do in the past. Now, iPhone X is not a cheap product, but a lighting rig–these things were tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars.


And an iPhone X does more than just take pictures. There are so many parts. With ARKit, we created something that essentially took the heavy lifting with [augmented reality] and put it in the operating system, which empowers thousands of developers eventually to be able to build AR into their apps. Some will be very profound, life changing. There is no doubt about that in my mind.


FC: Sometimes Apple takes the lead, introducing unique features–Face ID, for instance. Other times you're okay to follow, as long as you deliver what you feel is better, like HomePod, which is not the first home speaker. How do you decide when it's okay to follow?


TC: I wouldn't say "follow." I wouldn't use that word because that implies we waited for somebody to see what they were doing. That's actually not what's happening. What's happening if you look under the sheets, which we probably don't let people do, is that we start projects years before they come out. You could take every one of our products–iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch–they weren't the first, but they were the first modern one, right?


In each case, if you look at when we started, I would guess that we started much before other people did, but we took our time to get it right. Because we don't believe in using our customers as a laboratory. What we have that I think is unique is patience. We have patience to wait until something is great before we ship it.


FC: What about critiques that you get from consumers?


TC: Customers are jewels. Every day I read a fair number of customer comments, and they vary widely. Some are writing positive things about a store experience, an employee who did an incredible job for them. Some are saying, "Hey, I want a feature that's not in the product right now." Some are saying this feature should work this way, some are saying they had a life-changing experience with our product. I can no longer read all of them, but I read a bunch of them, because it's sort of like checking our blood pressure.


To learn about what Cook thinks about Apple Music, HomePod and much more, check out the full Fast Company report here.


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