It's no secret that Apple likes to keep things secret. The company's aversion to disclosure is legendary -- as are the swift punishments handed out to any Apple employee foolish enough to open his mouth and break omerta.
Tim Cook's reign at the top has proven just as tip-lipped as Steve Jobs', but Apple's new CEO recently sat down with both NBC's Rock Center and Bloomberg Businessweek to discuss his first year on the job in a pair of surprisingly lengthy interviews. Apple's decision to partially transfer Mac production to the U.S. may have been the big news, but Cook also shed light on rarely talked-about aspects of both his company and his personal life. Here are the juiciest tidbits.
iOS and OS X Will Be Seamless, Not the Same
When Microsoft blended a touchscreen tablet interface with the classic desktop in Windows 8, many observers said the company was following in the footsteps of Apple, which recently added several iOS-esque features to OS X. Don't expect Apple to continue Microsoft's "One OS to rule them all" strategy, however.
From Businessweek: "We don’t subscribe to the vision that the OS for iPhones and iPads should be the same as Mac. As you know, iOS and Mac OS are built on the same base. And Craig has always managed the common elements. And so this is a logical extension. Customers want iOS and Mac OS X to work together seamlessly, not to be the same, but to work together seamlessly."
I'm Not a Robot
Where Steve Jobs' was fiery, Tim Cook is even-keeled, which leads some to question his passion. Cook says nothing could be farther from the truth.
From Businessweek: “I would say that the person you read about is robotic. There are some good things about that, perhaps. (Laughs.) Discipline comes to mind. But it sounds like there is just no emotion. People that know me, I don’t think they would say that. I certainly am not a fist-pounder. That isn’t my style. But that and emotion are two different things. One is just a way of expressing it, basically.”
If you have a VP of Innovation, You’re Doing it Wrong
Several startups (and even a few larger companies) have started hiring "VPs of innovation" to direct the creative vision of their company. But is it a good idea to put the burden (and honor) of your company's innovation on a select few? Only if you want your business to flounder, says Cook.
From Businessweek: "Creativity and innovation are something you can’t flowchart out. Some things you can, and we do, and we’re very disciplined in those areas. But creativity isn’t one of those. A lot of companies have innovation departments, and this is always a sign that something is wrong when you have a VP of innovation or something. You know, put a for-sale sign on the door. (Laughs.)"
Image: "The Chubby Light Bulb" by Bes Z/Flickr
We Screwed Up on Maps
The Apple Maps fiasco tarnished an otherwise sterling launch for the iPhone 5, sending users to incorrect locations and displaying highways in the middle of oceans. Cook still acknowledges that the company messed up with the launch of Maps, but says the decision to move to an in-house solution was made for consumer benefit, not to lock down the iOS platform even further.
From NBC: On Maps, a few years ago, we decided that we wanted to provide customers features that we didn’t have in the current edition of Maps. It [Maps] didn’t meet our customers’ expectation, and our expectations of ourselves are even higher than our customers’. However, I can tell you, so we screwed up.”
Tim Cook Likes Getting Emails
Most CEOs are highly insulated and would shudder at the thought of fielding thousands of emails from end users. Tim Cook considers it a sign of just how much Apple products resonate with customers.
From Businessweek: "Just like we’re sitting down at this table today, I get e-mails all day long, hundreds, thousands per day from customers who are talking like you and I are talking, almost like I’ve gone over to their home and I am having dinner with them. They care so deeply about Apple they want to suggest this or that or say, “'Hey, I didn’t like this,' or, 'I really love this,' or tell me that FaceTime has changed their lives.
"But the point is they care so much they take the time to say something. It’s not a letter like you might think is written to a CEO. It’s not this formal kind of stuff. It’s like you and I are having a discussion, and we’ve known each other for 20 years, and I want to tell you what I really think. I love it. I don’t know if there’s another company on earth this happens with. It’s just not people from the U.S. These are people from all over the world. I look at it, and I go, 'This is a privilege.'"
TV as We Know it is Broken
Apple has been rumored to be working on an "iTV" for a while now, and Steve Jobs told his biographer that he would love to create a simple smart TV that seamlessly integrates with iCloud and more. Tim Cook wouldn't say much about the rumor, but what he did say spoke volumes.
From NBC: “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years. It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”
The Surface Tablet is Confusing
Back to Microsoft: Cook was ostensibly talking about both the Surface and Galaxy tablets, but reading between the lines, you can tell he's taking a jab at Windows 8's dual-natured interface, which has been called a 'cognitive burden' by usability experts.
From Businessweek: "What I see, for me, is that some of (Apple's competitors) are confusing, multiple OSs with multiple UIs. They steer away from simplicity. We think the customer wants all the clutter removed. We want the customer to be at the center of everything. I think when you start toggling back and forth between OSs and UIs, etc., I don’t think that’s what customers are looking for."
Steve Jobs Wasn't Afraid to Switch Gears
Cook counts Steve Job's willingness to change his mind as a tremendous asset. One tale claims that Steve Jobs demanded a switch from a plastic to a glass screen a mere week before the launch of the original iPhone, after finding that his keys scratched the prototype's plastic display.
From Businessweek: "More so than any person I ever met in my life, he had the ability to change his mind, much more so than anyone I’ve ever met. He could be so sold on a certain direction and in a nanosecond (Cook snaps his fingers) have a completely different view. (Laughs.) I thought in the early days, “Wow, this is strange.” Then I realized how much of a gift it was. So many people, particularly, I think, CEOs and top executives, they get so planted in their old ideas, and they refuse or don’t have the courage to admit that they’re now wrong. Maybe the most underappreciated thing about Steve was that he had the courage to change his mind. And you know—it’s a talent. It’s a talent. So, anyway."
Dumping Forstall and Browett Bring Apple Together
Rampant speculation suggested that Scott Forstall and John Browett were fired from Apple due to their inability to play nice with others. Apple never officially announced a reason for their departure, but Cook says that happy collaboration is a key ingredient to the company's success.
From Businessweek: "The key in the change that you’re referencing is my deep belief that collaboration is essential for innovation—and I didn’t just start believing that. I’ve always believed that. It’s always been a core belief at Apple. Steve very deeply believed this…
"So the changes—it’s not a matter of going from no collaboration to collaboration. We have an enormous level of collaboration in Apple, but it’s a matter of taking it to another level… So how do we keep doing that and keep taking it to an even higher level? You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration."
In the End, It's All About Intuition
How does a company like Apple consistently release innovative products that sell like gangbusters? It's simple: Rather than relying on data alone, the upper management also listens to its heart.
From Businessweek: "(Intuition is) critical. It’s extremely critical. The most important things in life, whether they’re personal or professional, are decided on intuition. I think you can have a lot of information and data feeding that intuition. You can do a lot of analysis. You can do lots of things that are quantitative in nature. But at the end of it, the things that are most important are always gut calls. And I think that’s just not true for me, but for many, many people. I don’t think it’s unique."