A Deep Interview with Tim Cook Looks at his First Five Years as Apple's CEO and Beyond
On July 27, 2016 Apple walked into history by selling their one billionth iPhone. Apple's CEO walked on stage at a special employee meeting that day, and said that the iPhone had become more than a constant companion. iPhone is truly an essential part of our daily life and enables much of what we do throughout the day. Last week we passed another major milestone when we sold the billionth iPhone. We never set out to make the most, but we've always set out to make the best products that make a difference. Thank you to everyone at Apple for helping change the world every day.' On that day the Washington Post sat down with Apple's CEO for an interview that was published today in a report titled "Tim Cook, the interview: Running Apple 'is sort of a lonely job.' A few weeks later, Cook would mark the fifth anniversary of what has been the most closely watched transition of power in corporate history. Cook stated that "It feels like it was yesterday in some respects."
It is fitting that these two milestones arrive so close together. That's because the iPhone, launched by Jobs, has been the biggest driver of Apple's massive growth during Cook's tenure. It led the company to soaring valuations and accounted for nearly two-thirds of Apple's revenue in the past year. Just the tally on iPhone sales, almost $141 billion over the past four quarters, is more than the annual sales figures of Cisco, Disney and Nike — combined.
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Tim Cook: I thought a lot of the focus and interest from the media for Apple was mostly due to Steve [Jobs]. When I became CEO, particularly after his passing, that that scrutiny and interest level would go down. That more came because of him than the company itself. And boy was I wrong about that. And if anything it began to rise partly because the media environment, there more people that were journalists, social media was exploding and out of that folks can praise significant and they could flog significantly and you quickly learn that you have to develop a very thick skin – sort of a rhinoceros skin.
One of the things that I recognize is that Steve had done this for years, where its true that some of the praise would accrue to him, it was equally true that if somebody was not happy about something, that would also accrue, so in that regard, he was kind of a heat shield for us and provided a level of cover, so to speak, beyond what I had fully comprehended when I became CEO.
One aspect of the Washington Post article provides us with a look at Tim Cook in the bigger picture. On Cook's first day on the job he sent out a memo to company employees and said that "I want you to be confident that Apple is not going to change." And yet five years later we that Apple has most definitely changed under Tim Cook.
Under Tim Cook, Apple is now more systematic, more transparent, more team-oriented, more humble. "He has engaged on social issues more than most CEOs, writing op-eds on legislation that limits gay rights and making the extraordinary decision earlier this year to oppose the FBI's request to unlock the San Bernardino killer's phone.
As CEO, he gets high marks for managing the company's growth, keeping margins high and expanding further into markets such as China (Apple had four retail stores in China five years ago. Today it has 41.) He has pushed into the enterprise market, grown Apple's product lineup and positioned Apple to make more money off the devices it's already sold: Its services business, which includes things like iTunes, iCloud and a mobile payments service, is projected to be the size of a Fortune 100 business next year — all on its own. Apple remains the most valuable and most profitable company in the S&P 500 index.
Yet as the company deals with declining sales in its major device categories and in markets like China, critics and some investors have fretted about Apple's innovation mojo under Cook. The first all-new device during his tenure, the Apple Watch, is not yet a mega hit. The iPhone juggernaut faces a saturated smartphone market, growing competition from low-cost start-ups and longer upgrade windows from consumers. Rumored big concepts behind the curtain — such as a reported car project — appear to be years away."
Yet most believe that it's the next five years that will define Tim Cook's reign as Apple's CEO. One thing is for sure, Tim Cook still believes that Apple's North Star has always been the same: making insanely great products that really change the world in some way — enrich people's lives.
Cook noted at one point of the interview that "To me, Steve's not replaceable. By anyone. [Voice softens] He was an original of a species. I never viewed that as my role. I think it would have been a treacherous thing if I would have tried to do it. When I first took the job as CEO, I actually thought that Steve would be here for a long time. Because he was going to be chairman, work a bit less after he came back up the health curve. I thought that he would bounce back.
The Washington Post's article on Tim Cook is lenghy and a great Sunday read touching on a wide variety of topics including AI and beyond. If you have the time, then be sure to check the full interview here.
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