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Tim Cook's Apple

Apple Pencil (2nd generation)
Apple Pencil (2nd generation) (Image credit: iMore)

Steve Jobs was not only Apple's co-founder, he was a visionary, futurist, and 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 the achievement of a lifetime. All of them, an unequaled achievement in any of our lifetimes.

Yet, seven years ago today, Steve Jobs stepped aside and recommended his then-COO to Apple's board as the next CEO.

Tim Cook wasn't and isn't a product person, not like Jobs. He didn't dream up the next world-changing device. What he did was make those dreams a reality. Famously, he didn't invent the iPad. He figured out how to make it for $500.

It would have been easy for Cook and his cool, steady Southern charm, to have continued as CEO much as he had as COO — running things by the numbers. But, even early on, Cook showed signs of something more.

Apple has never simply been a technology company. Jobs was clear on that: Apple stood at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. Slowly, inexorably, Cook has added a third pillar to that foundation: Civil responsibillity,

Cook himself said it best in a 2014 memo:

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. Artificial Intelligence is eating the world, often without any apparent thought to how we're all being ingested along the way.

We've come to depend on our devices and connections in ways previously unimaginable outside science-fiction. Perhaps we've become entirely dependant on them.

At the same time our trust has be challenged and maybe even 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've had to realize many of the company's and agencies using it don't love us one bit.

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 harvesting, aggregating, using, or abusing our data for profit. One day that might change, but for now it paints them in stark contrast to almost all their major competitors.

That belief was Steve Jobs. Making that belief manifest has been Tim Cook: Privacy is a human right (opens in new tab)

Cook has also championed charity, civil rights and equality, opportunity, accessibility, the environment, and numerous other causes not just privately but with the full public weight and power being CEO of Apple provides. He's realized the opportunity and responsibility of not just trying to do the right thing but, through doing it openly and loudly, trying to inspire others to do the right thing as well.

Not everything has gone perfectly over the last 7 years. Cook apologized for Apple Maps and the company for iPhone performance throttling. Services and software quality have been criticized. The Mac line got lost for a few years and under the man famous for logistics, several cutting-edge products have failed to ship on time.

Scaling, it turns out, is hard. Even for a company that recently broke the trillion dollar market cap.

At the same time, under Cook, Apple has shipped its best products ever: Watch Series 3, iPad Pro, iPhone X, AirPods, Apple News, Apple Music, and more, and has set itself up for the future with everything from augmented reality to ethical artificial intelligence to autonomous technologies.

And, yes, under Cook, Apple has stood up for privacy rights against the FBI, Facebook, and others, and for civil rights across the country.

Given where both society and technology is going next, it's hard to imagine anything else so important.

Congratulations on the first seven years, Tim Cook. Here's to many more.

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Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

22 Comments
  • Grammar police: Although Mr. Cook is certainly civil, "Civil responsibillity" should be "Civic responsibility" (without the extra "l," too). "many of the company's and agencies..." should be "companies."
  • Well, as long as it doesn't become Jony Ive's Apple. Then we'll have Hermes crap everywhere. "Introducing the new Mac Mini Hermes Edition, because everyone needs a leather computer with gold buckles."
  • Dont bad mouth the Hermes band. I would actually love it if Jony took over more products. The HomePod has made me realize how ahead of the game Apple is in design & functional harmony.
  • “Steve Jobs was not only Apple’s co-founder, he was a visionary, futurist, and one of the most important cultural influencers of our time." Yet I vividly remember the comment sections of various tech blogs the day he died. C|net was especially vile. Numerous posts about dancing in the streets, wishing he would burn in ****, organizing excursions to go and **** on his grave. The venom and bile was as vile as I’ve seen anywhere on the anonymous Internet. And I have never forgiven C|net for allowing those posts to remain published. Human beings are vile, debauched creatures.
  • Well...yes...I don’t disagree with your assessment of those CNET posts, but also sometimes people can be generous and altruistic. And this article celebrates that side of Tim Cook and Apple, and i think we should approve of it when people do good stuff, like stand up for privacy (even if possibly less perfectly than we wish), and for the environment (even if their record is not spotless), and for being a pioneer openly LGBTQ CEO, which is very courageous in and of itself.
  • Well done Mr. Cook. Not everything has been perfect, but I doubt anyone could do better. Cheers to today and another great 7 years or more years ahead.
  • As an average customer, not shareholder, nor employee or executive, not investor or creditor, to put it mildly, I am not impressed with Tim Cook.
  • Why is that?
  • Cheers Mr Cook. Good article Rene.
  • "Cook has also championed charity, civil rights..." The lack of accountability in the supply chains he helped establish suggest otherwise. It was only with pressure from NOGs and sections of the media that forced Apple to remove conflict minerals from their devices, and to ensure that even the most basic of human rights were maintained in their suppliers. Stop painting him as a messianic figure. He's a numbers guy for whom profit is God.
  • "It was only with pressure from NOGs and sections of the media that forced Apple to remove conflict minerals from their devices, and to ensure that even the most basic of human rights were maintained in their suppliers." What proof do you have of that? It's easy to say that any company is doing something based on criticism from the media, because the media love criticising things. You can actually do something because you yourself want to, just because Apple did something _after_ the media criticised them for not doing it, doesn't mean that Apple did it because of the media pressure.
  • Just Google the words Apple, human and rights and all will be clear.
  • returnmyjedi...
    Wow!...Thanks for sharing that. I knew some of it, but not to that extent.
  • You mean NGO’s.
  • Tim Cook is a moron just like Rene and his nickname Dannyjjk
  • The bigger moron is you. Why are you even on an Apple website if you hate Tim Cook and Rene?
  • I would say smart business man. Knows his stuff. He made people buy so much crap they don't need and made people believe they need a new iPhone even the old one is the same. A+ for business D- for innovation
  • To be honest, none of the tech companies, at least in terms of hardware, have really made anything innovative as of late. If people are buying crap that they don't need, the onus is on them. They have to research the products, and decide whether they want/need it.
  • Nice spin. Cook is a beancounter and nothing more. He clearly doesn't give two sh t cents about Apple as evidenced by the inexcusable neglect of the Mac product line, the mediocre software plagued with bugs of all kinds among other things. The sooner he is gone the better off Apple will be.
  • What software is plagued with bugs? I use plenty of Apple software (I'm even on the Public Betas) and everything works fine
  • I do appreciate the appearance of privacy in their business plan. I definitely trust Apple over Google any day! Let’s face it though, big businesses don’t necessarily have privacy concerns over profit concerns. If they “Stuck to their guns” on the privacy issue, they probably wouldn’t be able to sell any products in China (especially iPhones). The Chinese government isn’t too keen on allowing products to be sold that limit access to their eyes. That limit Is “privacy” I also doubt they have no interest in harvesting our data...It may not be their big business right now. I love Apple products and very satisfied with them. I do expect a certain quality of products from them over other companies and for the most part that has continued under Tim. Now Tim could’ve completely ruined Apple products and he didn’t. I think releasing products like the iPad Pro, AirPods, and Apple Watch were great ideas — I greatly enjoy my iPad Pro. So, it’s not like there hasn’t been any innovation per say. I was surprised (not anymore) how little was attention was given to the Mac thru the years. Contrary to popular belief, great products don’t always have to get updated every year — Even phones don’t have to. A point that was mentioned about Tim and his other “pillar”...For the most part, I believe their “civic responsibility” is Not projecting political views or other preferences. That doesn’t mean I disagree with all that he has said — That’s not my point. There is a Very fine line. That has the tendency to lean more and more towards a political activist company. This activist mindset has become rather popular within recent past. Instead of being that great “Jobs style Apple” we’ve enjoyed in the past. That could be the ruin of Apple. Not economic ruin, but completely ruin “Jobs style Apple” **Now they are a private company and can do practically what they want and I don’t disagree with that. I just wouldn’t call it doing their “civic responsibility”. I have a hard time imagining Steve Jobs doing that or wanting that.
  • Apple did not even tell their own employees at the retail stores that people just needed new batteries if their phones started running slow due to the battery health degrading. Why? Because it is MUCH more money for the person to be told that they need a new 700-1000$ phone rather than a new 30-80$ battery. Who was the CEO? Tim Cook. Do we really believe he didn't know this? Acting like this guy is some great moralistic person is absolutely ridiculous. Profits>people at Apple. This love fest is barf worthy.