FastCo yesterday named Apple the most innovative company of the year, and it has today followed up with an interview with the company’s CEO, Tim Cook.
When you talk about your company as often as Cook does, it must be incredibly hard to come up with new things to say, and many of his comments are well-rehearsed. But there are a few interesting snippets …
Cook has often echoed Steve Jobs in saying Apple isn’t motivated by making money – that it focuses on making great products which have a positive impact on people’s lives, and that if you do that right, the money takes care of itself. Cook again makes this point.
Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.
But he gets a little more specific where Apple Music is concerned. Asked if he thought about it as a source of profit, Cook said no.
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.
He said that music was important to him personally, and to the company, and that’s what drove the decision to have HomePod focus on sound quality first and foremost.
Think about the production that goes into a recording of a song. Great artists spend enormous time thinking about every detail. If you get this little squeaky speaker, all of that is gone! All of the art and craft of music is gone. [HomePod] is the realization that that is important. Part of the enjoyment in music is hearing the full sound.
Asked how Apple made the decision of when to lead with a new technology – like Face ID – and when to follow, like smart speakers. Cook took issue with the premise of the question.
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?
In each case, if you look at when we started, I would guess that we started much before other people did, but we took our time to get it right. Because we don’t believe in using our customers as a laboratory. What we have that I think is unique is patience. We have patience to wait until something is great before we ship it.
He said that, right now, the company was working on products that are at least 3-4 years away from launch, and implied that some product tracks are further out than that.
For us, on the product side, we have to come up with our silicon requirements three, four-plus years in advance. So we’ve got things that we’re working on now that are way out in the 2020s.
The full interview is worth reading.