Tim Cook Discusses His First Five Years as CEO, Apple’s Future, AI and More

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Today, The Washington Post posted a new in-depth interview with Tim Cook, where he discusses his first five years as Apple CEO, the company’s future, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, and much more.

The interview, which includes not only text but also video of Cook talking over a variety of topics, is lengthy and covers a lot of content. Cook talked about services and how important they are to Apple’s present and future:

“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.”

Cook also discussed some of the mistakes that Apple has made in the past, including the hire of John Browett, who ran Apple Retail stores for a short period of time. Cook says that those mistakes are all apart of the process:

“Maps was a mistake. Today we have a product we’re proud of. But we had the self-honesty to admit this wasn’t our finest hour and the courage to choose another way of doing it.

[…]

I hired the wrong person for retail [former Dixons CEO John Browett] initially. That was clearly a screw-up. I’m not saying anything bad about him. He didn’t fit here culturally is a good way to describe it. We all talked to him, and I made the final decision, and it was wrong. We fairly quickly recognized it and made a change. And I’m proud we did that.”

The changes that have been made at Apple has helped shape the company over the years. One of those changes is simply how big Apple is compared to how it used to be, from both an employee and customer standpoint.

“The obvious things are we have more employees. The company is four times larger [by revenue since 2010]. We’ve broadened the iPhone lineup. That was a really key decision and I think a very good one. We’ve gone into the Apple Watch business, which has gotten us into wellness and in health. We keep pulling that string to see where that takes us. Lots of core technology work has been done.”

The interview also touched on the fact that iPhone sales are slowing down, which Cook quickly pointed out was not really a problem:

“This is actually a privilege, not a problem. Think about this: What other products do you know where the ratio of people to the product, for a consumer electronics product, will be one-to-one over the long haul? I don’t think there is another one.”

Steve Jobs was also brought up in the interview, and Cook says replacing Jobs isn’t possible:

“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. So I went into it with one thought, and then weeks later — six weeks later, whatever —“

Cook was then asked how Apple could move forward with the slow down in iPhone sales. He also argued that the company is not falling behind in AI efforts, calling the breadth of Siri “unbelievable”:

“Look at the core technologies that make up the smartphone today and look at the ones that will be dominant in smartphones of the future — like AI. AI will make this product even more essential to you. It will become even a better assistant than it is today. So where you probably aren’t leaving home without it today — you’re really going to be connected to it in the future.

[…]

We’ve been shipping Siri since 2011, and Siri is with you all of the time. Which I think most people would want an assistant with them all the time, whether they’re at work or at home or in between or on the soccer field. You don’t think of your to-do list, so to speak, only when you’re in your kitchen. And the breadth of Siri is unbelievable. Increasingly, Siri understands things obviously without having to memorize certain ways to say things. The prediction of Siri is going way up. What we’ve done with AI is focus on things that will help the customer. And we announced in June that we’re opening Siri to third parties, so third-party developers can now use Siri.”

When asked about privacy and security concerns of pushing into AI, Cook said:

“I think that talented people can come up with fantastic ways of using AI without violating privacy. There’s a new technology called differential privacy which essentially looks at large data sets to predict user behaviors and requests without going to the precise individual, which might violate privacy.

Now there are some things that we do look at — like if you buy songs, it’s a reasonable expectation that we know what songs you buy because you buy them from us. And we use that information with machine learning to recommend other songs you might like.”

One of the last points Cook made was in regards to virtual reality and augmented reality:

“I think AR [augmented reality] is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology. So, yes, it’s something we’re doing a lot of things on behind that curtain that we talked about. [Laughs.]”

The Washington Post’s full interview with Tim Cook can be found at this link and it is certainly worth checking out.

A software engineer with a passion for creation and innovation using technology. To learn more about me, check out my personal website, which contains links to my projects. Email: nick@iphoneincanada.ca

  • Tim

    Apple really needs to move into their new campus. Shooting a picture of Tim Cook against a that banal and unoriginal office park building they currently use is antithetical to the company’s entire ethos. The place looks like it should be the headquarters of an office supplies company FFS.