Tim Cook provided some fascinating insights into his thinking in an interview with the New York Times’s Kara Swisher on the Sway podcast on Monday. While it was the fairly unsurprising revelation that he doesn’t see himself being Apple CEO as he turns 70 that grabbed initial attention, there was much else to unpack in his other answers. The overriding theme – Mr. Cook is building his legacy at Apple.
Tim Cook Builds on Steve Jobs’s Privacy Legacy
Let’s start with perhaps the most obvious bit of the legacy Mr. Cook is trying to build – that Apple is the ‘privacy’ company. As I’ve noted before, that’s not new. Mr. Cook is really building on the legacy of Steve Jobs here. However, he’s clearly doubled down on it. He defended Apple’s decision not to allow law enforcement backdoors into iPhones. He also spoke of forthcoming iOS privacy tools in relation to “data minimization, getting as little as you need, making sure you need what you’re getting, challenging yourself to get less and less and less and less.”
Clearly, the development of the App Store economy is something he will want to be remembered for too. “I think it’s hard to argue that the App Store is not an economic miracle,” he said.
Fundamental to all this is Apple’s preference for curation, something the CEO was robust in his defense of, despite criticisms that it means his company holds too much power. He said that each week 100,000 app review applications come in, with forty-thousand rejected largely because they do not work or do not work in the way developers claimed they would. “You can imagine if curation went away, what would occur to the App Store in a very short amount of time.”
He made similar comments about Apple TV+ declaring “we’re about making the best, not the most.” He is happy for his company’s product to sit alongside rivals like Netflix but “it is not a hobby.”
Looking to the Future
Mr. Cook is “very excited” about the development of augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI). He said he foresees its use in areas like health, education, and gaming. He surely wants to establish Apple’s place in this field before he leaves. An extension of this is cars, on which Mr. Cook was, by his own admission “coy,” saying only “the autonomy itself is a core technology.”
Tim Cook Deals With the Personal and the Politics
Outside of products, Mr. Cook clearly wants to use his role to have a wider impact. Asked about recent legislation in Georgia, he told Ms. Swisher that “voting rights are fundamental to democracy. You know, I I think about my old friend John Lewis and sort of what John did to advance voting rights and the hard-fought wins there. We can’t let those go in reverse.”
He even discussed using a smartphone to vote to help widen participation:
I would dream of that because I think that’s where we live. We do our banking on phones. We have our health data on phones. We have more information on a phone about us than is in our houses. And so why not?
Mr. Cook even got personal, discussing coming out and his determination to speak out more on LGBTQ+ issues. “I wanted to speak my truth because I saw kids struggling with who they were and maybe being disowned by their families, maybe being bullied,” he explained. I felt that coming out and speaking my truth would help show them that there was a light at the end of the tunnel that they could rise and do things incredible in life, that they were not capped in some kind of way because they were part of the LGBTQ community.” He said he is “going to speak out on laws and regulations that pop up that are discriminatory to the community.”
We may not know the exact date Tim Cook is going to depart Apple. However, the kind of company he wants to leave behind is becoming increasingly clear.