Five years after taking over Apple from co-founder Steve Jobs, current CEO Tim Cook has opened up in an in-depth interview with the Washington Post about running the technology giant. Cook reflected on a wide range of topics, from losing and succeeding Jobs, the firm's battle for privacy and the challenges of helming one of the world's top companies.
Although the 55-year-old steered clear of commenting on rumours about Apple coming up with a car, he confirmed that the company was "doing a lot" with regards to augmented reality (AR), which it considers to be a "core technology". Cook also confirmed the age old adage of it being lonely on the top. "The adage that it's lonely – the CEO job is lonely – is accurate in a lot of ways. I'm not looking for any sympathy," he said.
On the irreplaceable Steve Jobs
Reflecting on Jobs and the pivotal role he played in the firm, Cook said, "To me, Steve's not replaceable. By anyone. He was an original of a species. I never viewed that was 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. I know this sounds probably bizarre at this point, but I had convinced myself that he would bounce, because he always did."
Cook admitted to the Maps debacle, but stressed that the company now had "a product we're proud of". He said, "Maps was a mistake. [But] we had the self-honesty to admit this wasn't our finest hour and the courage to choose another way of doing it. That's important. It's the only way an organization learns."
AI and AR
The CEO predicted that artificial intelligence (AI) would play a key role in the future of technology. "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," he said. "That level of performance is going to skyrocket. And there is nothing that's going to replace it in the short term or in the intermediate term either."
"I think AR 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," Cook added.
The privacy battle
Commenting on the controversial and high-profile privacy battle with the FBI, Cook acknowledged that Apple was aware of how the cards "were stacked against us", but maintained that the "risk" of creating a backdoor would be "incredibly terrible for public safety".
"We knew the positioning on the outside would not be public safety. It would be security vs. privacy — security should win. But we went through the deep, deep, deep discussions on that," Cook remarked. "It became clear that the trade-off, so to speak, was essentially putting hundreds of millions of people at risk for a phone that may or may not have anything on it, and that likely didn't, because of other things that we knew about. We thought this actually is a clear decision. A hard one, but a clear one."
Despite the challenges and demands of the job, he stressed, "I've got the best job in the world."
The interview also revealed Apple and Cook's stance on the company's taxes, Apple's growth, its views on iPhone dependency and more. The entirety of Cook's words can be found on the Washington Post website.