Some Interesting Excerpts from Tim Cook’s Fast Company Interview

Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac "hello again" event.

As part of Apple being named Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Company of 2018, CEO Tim Cook gave an interview to the magazine’s Robert Safian. It’s a wide-ranging interview filled with a mix of marketing speak and genuine insight. Here are four of the most interesting excerpts from the Tim Cook interview.

Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac "hello again" event.
Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac “hello again” event.

Tim Cook Says Apple Isn’t a Follower

In the interview, Mr. Cook makes the case that Apple might appear to be following the tech world with some products, but that if you could see the company’s internal workings, you’d know that’s not how it is.

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?

If You Write Tim Cook, Be Thoughtful

This was something I didn’t know about Tim Cook. In the interview he noted that he no longer has the time to read all the customer emails he gets. He essentially said he spot checks them, however, as a way of taking the pulse of customer sentiment.

But then he revealed that if you want him to care about what you’re saying be thoughtful, regardless of the opinion you’re expressing.

FC: Is there some pattern you’re looking for?

TC: I tend to weight the ones that are most thoughtful. That doesn’t mean polite—I don’t mind people saying I’m ugly or whatever. It’s just, what level of thought is it? I care deeply about what users think.

That Time Tim Cook Said Bryan Chaffin Was Right about Spotify

On Tuesday, I wrote a piece arguing that music was becoming an add-on service for platforms. I furthermore said that Spotify would never be able to make money streaming music when it was competing against those platforms. In his interview with Fast Company, Tim Cook said I was right.

OK, he didn’t say I was right, but he did supremely illustrate my point. From the interview [emphasis added]:

FC: Music has always been part of the Apple brand. Apple Music has had a lot of user growth, but streaming is not a major money­maker. Do you think about streaming as a potential stand-alone profit area, or is it important for other reasons?

TC: Music is interesting because it inspires people. It motivates people. There is a deep emotional connection. Apple was serving musicians with a Macintosh back in ’84–’85. So it’s something that’s deep in our DNA.

Music is a service that we think our users want us to provide. It’s a service that we worry about the humanity being drained out of. We worry about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world, instead of the art and craft.

You’re right, we’re not in it for the money. I think it’s important for artists. If we’re going to continue to have a great creative community, [artists] have to be funded.

Apple in a Nutshell

I love this quote. Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say I believe this quote. It’s what people who have been in the Apple ecosystem for a long time want to be true. From the interview:

FC: What do people misunderstand or underappreciate about Apple?

TC: For a casual observer who hasn’t been a user of our products, the thing that they might miss is how different Apple is versus other technology companies. A financial person just looking at revenues and profits may think, They’re good [at making money]. But that’s not who we are. We’re a group of people who are trying to change the world for the better, that’s who we are. For us, technology is a background thing. We don’t want people to have to focus on bits and bytes and feeds and speeds. We don’t want people to have to go to multiple [systems] or live with a device that’s not integrated. We do the hardware and the software, and some of the key services as well, to provide a whole system. We do that in such a way that we infuse humanity into it.

There’s a lot more in the interview. I recommend it for anyone interested in understanding more about how Apple works and understanding Tim Cook.

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