Tim Cook is Apple's moral center and 'we believe' its post-PC battle-cry

Tim Cook's moral center, and making 'we believe' Apple's battle-cry for the post-PC era

Steve Jobs was not only Apple's visionary, he was one of the most important cultural influencers of our time. Apple. Mac. NeXT. Pixar. iMac. iPod. iTunes. iPhone. iPad. Any one of those would be a worthy achievement. All of them, a universe denting one. But Steve Jobs is gone and Tim Cook now helms Apple. He was an operations guy, not a product guy. He didn't dream up the next world-changing product, but he did make those dreams a reality. It would be easy, natural-even, for him to continue in an operational role as CEO, but steadily, over the course of the last two years, he's been doing more than that. He's been taking on a moral role as well.

Tim Cook comes out at the beginning and end of Apple events, just as Steve Jobs did in his latter years, and where he inherited "the crossroads of technology and liberal arts" he's steadily, passionately, visibly moved Apple down the road of core values. From matching charitable donations to apologizing about maps to championing equality in employment to stating when and how Apple would put their signature on their products, Cook has brought the discussion of not only what Apple does, but how and why they do it front and center.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball called out this portion of Tim Cook's FTC memo as a sincere version of Google's "don't be evil" manta:

Apple is a company full of disruptive ideas and innovative people, who are also committed to upholding the highest moral, legal and ethical standards in everything we do. As I’ve said before, we believe technology can serve humankind’s deepest values and highest aspirations. As Apple continues to grow, there will inevitably be scrutiny and criticism along our journey. We don’t shy away from these kinds of questions, because we are confident in the integrity of our company and our coworkers.

Technology is more pervasive than ever. It's in our lives, in our homes, and even on and in our bodies more than ever. We've come to depend on it in ways previously unimaginable outside science-fiction. At the same time our trust has be challenged and maybe shattered like never before. We've been spied on, watched, listened to, read, and invaded in ways also previously unimaginable outside science-fiction. As much as we love technology, we now fear it, and not without reason.

Apple currently makes the vast majority of its money off hardware margins — the profits they accrue on the sale of iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs. They currently make very little money off advertising and have very little interest in brokering our data, or turning us into their products. One day that might change, but for now it paints them in stark contrast to almost all their major competitors. It's a differentiator.

Having spoken to numerous people at Apple over the years, I'm certain Tim Cook's statement is sincere, and that he's far from the only one at the company who feels this way. He and Apple are simply getting better at expressing it, and letting customers and potential customers know about it. And that could be a huge advantage for them.

If "It just works" was the battle cry against the poor user experiences of the PC-era, then "We believe" might just be the battle cry against the invasions an inhumanities of the post-PC era.

Yes, it can come off as goofy, hollow, even patronizing at times, but as long as the sentiment is sincere, and we're never given reason to doubt it, the expression can always improve.

And given the news of the last few years, what could be more important?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Tim Cook is Apple's moral center and 'we believe' its post-PC battle-cry

20 Comments

Tim Cooks is definitely a great Operations guy. The good thing is there are so many visionaries that are surrounded around him that he just have to stick with the apple approach and and when he decide on a product determine does the product make the consumers life easier. If so, then that's just the beginning of what could be something great. Great article!

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Great article, Rene! Tim Cook may not be the visionary that Steve Jobs was but time and again he has showed us that he has a strong moral foundation and that bodes well for Apple as a company.

..."We believe" might just be the battle cry against the invasions an inhumanities...

Should be "invasions *and inhumanities".

But, I'd like to see Apple take the (ironically) more human approach to tech. They need more of an ecosystem centered around the individual user that makes his or her connections "work" better and simpler (without feeling like someone or something is always watching).

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Thanks for writing this fine observation, Rene. I sometimes cringe at the monumental task Tim has inherited to keep Apple on top and have to operate in the shadow of a genius who was tragically taken from us so early. All the pundits will always "compare" but SJ worked with TC for many years and SJ was clear on who should assume the keys to the kingdom. As usual, SJ was right. (Apple's share prices suffered just about the same level of irrationality during the SJ era, but people have short memories). Happy to see TC showing up in China to personally show Apple's high hopes and respect for the China Mobile rollout. Very appropriate and classy!

This is a true story:
I started using apple products around 2009/2010 starting with the iPhone. I then got an iPad 1 and then got my first macbook pro 2012 and I remember trying to describe why I fell for Apple so hard and I said " because It just works". At the time I had never heard this term used for or by Apple. When I found out that Apple had used this as a slogan a while ago I said it fits them perfectly. Simple products that are extremely complex yet just work. This simplicity and complexness can also be said about both the late Steve Jobs and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Very succint observation. Despite being very trollable I completely agree with this sentiment. The apple tax folks like to claim may actually end up adding more value than just 'it just works' mantra like you say. The level of trust I am willing to place in Apple as a consumer just struck me a couple of days back when I was thinking of ditching my iPhone 5 for a 5S simply for the fingerprint scanner. I realized I had very few apprehensions about placing such a highly private part of my identity in the hands of a corporate entity. Then i thought who else do I trust at the same level - the answer - nobody. I am trying to trust less and less of my info with any other company out there. I think the best way for apple to advertise its integrity is exactly the way they're doing it right now - start at the top and talk about it at every given opportunity. Every one of Tim's interviews unfailingly mentions trust or integrity metaphorically if not literally at some juncture and not just as a marketing ploy. I truly believe that he believes it. The care they took to design the secure enclave for touchID and the choice they made to advertise that is again very much part of this syntax. I completely agree with your assessment.

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I really hope apple sticks with being a hardware company, maybe some software. One of the reasons I love Apple so much is it feel my data is a lot safer with them. Unlike google, Facebook, and so many others, they don't need to rely on my data to make a profit. Google is throwing a lot of money into making good products and selling them dirt cheap, people need to take a step back and look at why they do this. All things google are gone in my world besides a email account I use for junk I don't want cluttering my real email. Tim Cook is a great leader from what I have seen, and with good ol Jonny and the rest of the great people that make these products have a pretty good looking road ahead, I can't wait to see what they do.

A differentiator? One day that might change? Read the privacy policies.

Google's privacy policy: http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/
Apple's privacy policy: http://www.apple.com/privacy/

Apple reserves the right to do everything Google is pilloried for doing, and, if anything, Apple's section on allowable third party disclosure is murkier and more open to interpretation than Google's.

I'd agree wholeheartedly with you that Apple has the better track record here, but is is naive to assume that Apple will not (or even *has not already*) done similar things, since the explicitly allow themselves the ability to do so.

People say Tim Cook isn't the visionary Steve Jobs was. What exactly is that based on? That Apple hasn't yet released a game changing product on his watch? That Tim can't do a keynote the way Steve could? That Steve told Walter Isaacson "Tim's not a product guy per se"?

I'll go back to something Ben Thompson wrote last year: when he interned at Apple he got to meet all the SVPs, and the one that impressed him most (even more so than Steve) was Tim Cook. I think people underestimate Cook, especially when it comes to this whole vision thing.

.. and this is the answer to the other iMore Article on why Apple is treated like a cult.

Reading this line; "Apple is a company full of disruptive ideas and innovative people, who are also committed to upholding the highest moral, legal and ethical standards in everything we do." is a hoot after what was revealed in company emails by the DoJ.

I am tired of hearing about this 'Post-PC era', it's not post-PC in the slightest, ok so people who previously had a PC (mac or windows) to just browse the internet are better off with a tablet or even a phone, but the PC (again mac or windows) is the mainstay for any real work, lets not forget apps for said phones and tablets are never going to be written on one of those devices, and even a simple task like writing a letter and printing it is far far easier on a desktop/laptop machine. 'Post-PC Web Browsing era' maybe but that's about all.

How is our data anymore protected on Apple products when we still predominantly use Google services? How much more information is being mined from Google hardware and OS compared to an iPhone user who has Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Search?

Agreed. In fact, I'm one of those wackos that has been systematically getting rid of all of my Google ties. I think the last bastion of defense is the Feedly tie to a Google account. I need to find a new syncing feed service (or better yet determine a way to wean myself from RSS).

I also don't post everytime I'm sick or have a bad day to my Facebook feed. I don't particularly want everyone and their dog running algorithms against me to determine my "xyz-worthiness".

You've nailed it Rene. Very happy with the moral vision -- and behavior -- of Apple under Tim Cook. I do believe that Apple the company was Steve Jobs' greatest creation, and Tim is taking it a slightly difference yet wholly compatible direction.

I've only recently begun making more money from Apple's App Store than from Google Adsense. I do have to occasionally hold my nose at the ads Google shows on my site, but I have nothing but pride in my app.

Apple's greatest moral purpose is to enable its employees, customers and developers to create.

Time for Apple to issue a manifesto that starts out with "You are our customer, not our product. All the information that your use of our products generate are used to improve our products. We have never sold and will never sell this information to advertisers, other companies, or governments."

The entire information industry landscape could benefit from an impartial privacy rating agency sort of like consumer reports or an EPA certification. How about an integrity score as part of the spec sheet?

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Kudos to Tim Cook for his and Apple's vision of technology. And I agree that Apple is really getting better at expressing these points to their customers.