Tim Cook's View of the Apple Philosophy

In the Q&A section of yesterday's earnings conference call, the first question unsurprisingly addressed Steve Jobs' leave of absence and how that would affect the way Apple is being run. Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer noted that Jobs remains CEO and that he will continue to be involved in strategic decisions. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who is overseeing Apple's day-to-day operations during Jobs' absence, then took the opportunity to share his perspective on Apple's company philosophy.

There is an extraordinary breadth and depth and tenure among the Apple executive team, and these executives lead over 35,000 employees that I would call "all wicked smart". And that's in all areas of the company, from engineering to marketing to operations and sales and all the rest. And the values of our company are extremely well entrenched.

We believe that we're on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that's not changing. We're constantly focusing on innovating. We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.

We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.

And frankly, we don't settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we're wrong and the courage to change. And I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.

Fortune's Adam Lashinsky examines what he is calling the "Cook Doctrine" as a unique look into the mind of Tim Cook, who was previously profiled by Lashinsky as "intensely private" and "demanding and unemotional."

This is fascinating at a number of levels. Some of it is stuff you'd expect from anyone in Apple's senior management. Some ideas have been articulated at Apple for years. But this shows an executive who has given tons of thought to what it means to lead Apple. He couldn't have been clearer that he's in charge, at least for now. It also was a show of strength, as when Cook later threatened Palm (PALM) with patent litigation.

It raised so many questions too. Other than the company's proprietary operating systems, what technologies was Cook referring to? What are some projects Apple has considered and rejected? When has the company been wrong -- and been "self-honest" about it? What's an example of the culture being so embedded that things work, even when Jobs isn't involved?

Lashinsky notes that much of Apple's talent has been overshadowed by Steve Jobs over the years, and it is only now in Jobs' absence that some of these executives will be able to receive significant media exposure, attention that is revealing Cook to be "eloquent, forceful and passionate about Apple."

Top Rated Comments

swingerofbirch Avatar
170 months ago
Regarding the point about self-honesty, I can think of a few times Apple admitted it was wrong(ish). 1) I remember Jobs admitting Apple was late to the CD burning craze with the CRT iMacs and that ripping and burning CDs with iTunes on iMacs would change that. 2) He also admitted that Apple had been negligent in not being more forthcoming about its environmental policies and plans. 3) Apple has been unusually transparent in publicly regarding Apple TV as a hobby, and saying with Take 2 they think they got it right. 4) They had some contrition regarding the MobileMe roll-out. 5) And with the in-ear headphones, I remember Jobs saying the latest iteration "finally got it right."

Regarding articulating their values, I frankly think any of us could have had enough insight to have provided the same information. It's fairly easy to see what Apple's Modus operandi is. They want to do it right and have it just work. They sacrifice abundance for purity. Got it!

I would be more curious to hear the actual audio of his statements about "going after" and "using every weapon available" against companies that steal their IP. Those are very anxious, angry words that seemed to come out of nowhere. My personal opinion is that it can be seen as a sign of weakness to come out fighting like that. Better if possible to do what you need to do but do it quietly. (Not that I myself am able to.)

I think people assume Apple is a paranoid organization, but it starts to become unflattering when that paranoia bubbles to the surface and results in contradictory statements from Jobs and somewhat caustic threats from the new acting head. It's almost as if Apple is more worried that in Steve's absence, Apple won't be strong enough to keep away vultures after its secrets rather than Apple not being led well and coming up with good products in his absence, which is to say that Apple might from the inside think its secrecy is more valuable to shareholders than products and think shareholders value their secrecy equally and need the new leader to be a bulldog to prove their secrecy and cult-like status is intact, essentially that regardless of what products come out of the fortress, the fortress is still impenetrable, and we'll lob out some missiles to keep anyone at bay who thinks otherwise. I realize that might seem far-fetched, but has Apple ever preemptively made attacking statements regarding IP before?
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