Tim Cook Reflects on Steve Jobs, Apple Watch Saving Lives, and Politics on The David Rubenstein Show

Bloomberg Television today published a full-length interview between Apple CEO Tim Cook and David Rubenstein, one of three billionaire founders of private equity firm Carlyle Group, following a brief preview last month. The conversation took place at Cook's alma mater Duke University on May 13.


Cook reflected on a wide range of topics, including his education and career path, relationship with the late Steve Jobs, the Apple Watch's life-saving capabilities, politics, and social issues such as privacy, immigration, and equality.


On the subject of Apple's earnings:

Rubenstein: You’ve now been the CEO of Apple since about July of 2011. The earnings are up about 80 percent. So, have you ever thought you can’t do better than this, and maybe you should just say, “well, I’ve done a great job, and now I’m going to do something else with my life?”

Cook: We view the stock price and revenue and profits as a result of doing things right on the innovation side, on the creativity side, focusing on the right products, treating customers like they’re jewels, and focusing on the user experience. I didn’t even know the numbers that you just quoted. It’s not even in my orbit, to be honest with you.

Rubenstein: When you announce your quarterly earnings, analysts always say, “well they didn’t sell as much of this product as we thought they would,” and so does that bother you?

Cook: It did at one time. It doesn’t anymore. We run Apple for the long term. It’s always struck me as bizarre that there’s a fixation on how many units are sold in a 90-day period. We’re making decisions that are multi-year kinds of decisions. We make it very clear that we don’t want to run the company for people who want to make a quick buck. We run the company for the long term.

Cook's view on billionaire investor Warren Buffett recently purchasing an additional 75 million shares in Apple:

Rubenstein: One of the shareholders who recently surfaced as having bought an additional 75 million shares is Warren Buffett. Are you pleased to have him as your shareholder?

Cook: I’m overjoyed. I’m thrilled. Warren is focused on the long term, so we’re in sync. It’s the way we run the company. It’s the way he invests. So, yeah, I could not be happier.

On the subject of Apple Park:

Cook: Steve had the vision that the workplace should facilitate people working together… having these common areas that people could work together and run into each other without planning on doing it… and that the level of ideas and creativity and innovation that would come out of that would be phenomenal. And we’re seeing that.

Rubenstein: You’re convinced standing up working is better than sitting down?

Cook: We have given all of our employees, 100 percent, standing desks. If you can stand for a while and then sit, and so on and so forth, this is much better for your lifestyle.

Cook reflecting on leaving Compaq to work at Apple:

Rubenstein: You were at Compaq, which at the time I think was one of the biggest manufacturers of personal computers… you’re there for about six months, and you get a call from Steve Jobs, or somebody working for him, asking you to come join Apple. Apple was modest compared to Compaq, so why did you take the interview, and why did you join Apple?

Cook: It’s a good question. Steve had come back to the company and was essentially replacing the executive team that was there at the time. I thought, you know, this is an opportunity to talk to the guy who started the whole industry. Steve met me on Saturday. It was just minutes into talking to him… I want to do it. I totally shocked myself. There was a sparkle in his eyes that I’ve never seen in a CEO before. He was sort of turning left when everyone was turning right. On almost everything he talked about, he was doing something extraordinarily different than conventional wisdom. Many people were abandoning the consumer market because it was a blood bath. Steve was doing the exact opposite. He was doubling down on the consumer at the time everyone else, the conventional wisdom said “go put your money in storage and servers.” Talking with him, and the type of questions he asked, were also different. I did, literally before I left, was thinking “I hope he offers me a job, because I really want to do this.”

On the subject of succeeding Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple:

Rubenstein: Steve’s health was such that he couldn’t continue to be CEO. He told the board that. And you were announced as the new CEO, I think around July of 2011. When you became the CEO, do you feel that Steve would say, here’s what I was interested in doing, and you fulfill my goals, or do you feel you had your own view on what you should do, and how did you balance the two? You’re succeeding a legendary figure…

Cook: It’s not so sequential as that. We have a really open company, so most of us could finish the other person’s sentences, even when we might disagree with them. So, it wasn’t a matter of Steve having a secret file or anything. He was always sharing his ideas — all the time. So, it was very different than that. Honestly, my view at that time was that he would be Chairman and would do that forever, and we would sort of figure out the relationship change there. That’s what I thought. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.

On the iPhone:

Rubenstein: You have a product that is the most successful consumer product in the history of mankind — which is the iPhone.

Cook: There was a sense that it was a profound product… that it was a game changer. If you go back and watch the keynote that Steve announced it, you can feel his passion in it, and the way he described it. I still remember it like it was yesterday.

On the Apple Watch and its life-saving capabilities:

Rubenstein: So, how are they doing?

Cook: They’re doing fantastic. Cellular is now on the watch. You don’t have to travel with your iPhone… you can just use your watch. One of my best moments of the day is to go through my emails that are from users. I get so many each week from people that found out they have a heart problem from their watch. It’s alerting you if you’ve been sitting and your heart rate has climbed to a level that doesn’t make sense relative to the activity you’ve been doing.

Rubenstein: I suppose you don’t want to know if you have a heart problem.

Cook: Well, we think most people do, because then you can go get help. Seriously though, David, so many people have written and said, “the watch alerted me to the problem, I took action and went to the cardiologist, and he told me, if I had not gone there, I wouldn’t be alive.”

On the topics of privacy and equality:

Rubenstein: Let’s talk about some of the values that you’ve been espousing. One is privacy.

Cook: We see privacy a fundamental human right. So, to us, it’s right up there with some of the other civil liberties that make Americans what they are… defines us as Americans. We see that this is becoming a larger and larger issue for people. Our tact on this is we take a minimum amount of data from customers… only that which we need to provide a great service. Then, we work really hard to protect it with encryption and so forth.

Rubenstein: You’ve also talked about the importance of equality. Why is that so important to you?

Cook: Many of the problems of the world come down to the lack of equality. It’s the fact that it’s the kid who is born in one ZIP code doesn’t have a good education because he happens to be born in that ZIP code. It’s someone who is maybe in the LGBT community who is fired because of that. It’s someone who has a different religion than the majority and are therefore ostracized in some way. If one day you could wave a wand and everybody would treat each other with dignity and respect, there are many, many problems that would go away with that.

Cook on why he publicly revealed he is gay:

Rubenstein: You exposed your own personal life a bit. The privacy that you said other people should have. You kind of gave up some of your privacy. Why did you do that?

Cook: I did it for a greater purpose. I realized there were a lot of kids out there that were not being treated very well—including in their own families. Kids need someone to say “oh, they did okay in life, and they’re gay, so it must not be a life sentence in some kind of way.” We’re getting these notes… it would tug on my heart even more, and it got to the point, and it got to the point where I thought, I’m making the wrong call, by trying to do something that is comfortable for me, which is to stay private. I needed to do something for the greater good.

Cook's recent meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump:

Rubenstein: Now, you’re obviously in the public eye. Recently you had a meeting with President Trump. What was that like?

Cook: I talked about trade, and the importance of trade, and how I felt that two countries trading together make the pie larger. It’s true, I think undoubtedly true, that not everyone has been advantaged from that in either country, and we’ve got to work on that. I felt that tariffs were not the right approach there, and I showed him some more analytical kind of things to demonstrate why. We also talked about immigration, and the importance of fixing the Dreamer issue now. We’re only one court ruling away from a catastrophic case there.

On the subject of how Apple plans to use its cash holdings:

Rubenstein: Apple has roughly $260 billion in cash, more or less. What do you plan to do with that cash?

Cook: We’re going to create a new site, a new campus within the United States. We’re going to hire 20,000 people. We’re going to spend $30 billion in capital expenditure over the next several years. Number one, we’re investing, and investing a ton, in this country. We’re also going to buy some of our stock, as we view our stock as a good value.

Cook's response to ever considering running for President of the United States:

Rubenstein: You’re obviously a public figure. You weren’t before. Have you ever thought that maybe you could run for President of the United States?

Cook: I’m not political. I love focusing on the policy stuff, but in the dysfunction kind of in Washington, between the legislative branch and so forth, I think I can make a bigger difference in the world doing what I’m doing. I appreciate the comment. You know, it’s something that you’d love to be President, but not ever run. That should never happen in our country, so that kind of eliminates me.

The full interview will air on The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations, which explores successful leadership.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
30 months ago
After that WWDC Keynote its never been more clear that Apple cares far more about appearing progressive than hiring people that will actually produce something of quality.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
So, Tim is really concerned about LGBT and religious minorities being ostracized, and yet he has no problem with opening Apple stores in Saudi Arabia. Ah, I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
"I’m not political." Sure.

He is exactly right about privacy being a fundamental right, and exactly right about someone's sexual preference/orientation being irrelevant, but saying he isn't political just doesn't match with reality.

Hopefully Apple doubles down on privacy and encryption, but works to increase reliability and reduce bugs as much or more. Things like the open root login and the like are just inexcusable.

edit: It would be nice to see some updated Macs too! - Mini, MBP etc. (Pro EARLY 2019???)
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
Someone please ask why are they building sealed computers that are not friendly to the environment. And when you are on that, please ask about the damn keyboard. All these interviews are just made to make these guys look good. No spine in it at all.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
Lol, “I’m not political.”?? I’m not a huge fan of Tim Cook, but even if I were, this statement would make me seriously mistrust him. It is an outright lie. What else does he lie about? I don’t like his politics but I do respect people that are honest and open about their politics and positions even if I don’t agree with them. Those who hide it, however, I detest.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
Rubenstein: "So, Tim, where's the new Mac mini?"
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

New AirPods Pro Firmware Introduces Spatial Audio Support and Automatic Switching

Monday September 14, 2020 12:22 pm PDT by
The new 3A283 firmware that Apple released for the AirPods Pro today appears to introduce support for Spatial Audio, a new feature coming to the higher-end AirPods with iOS 14. Multiple reports on Twitter and the MacRumors forums indicate that the firmware update adds a "Spatial Audio" option to the Control Center, which can be activated to enable the feature. Note that using Spatial Audio...

Spotify Says Apple One Bundle Will Cause 'Irreparable Harm to Developer Community'

Tuesday September 15, 2020 12:26 pm PDT by
Apple today announced Apple One, a series of new subscription bundles that provide access to various Apple services at a combined monthly price. In response, Spotify sent out statements (via Peter Kafka) to the press decrying Apple's anti-competitive behavior and calling on "competition authorities" to stop Apple before it is able to cause "irreparable harm" to developers.Once again, Apple...

Bloomberg: Apple Watch Series 6 With SpO2 Tracking and All-Screen iPad Air Coming at 'Time Flies' Event, Apple Silicon Macs by November

Monday September 14, 2020 5:20 am PDT by
Apple is set to host a virtual event on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, and ahead of time, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has outlined his expectations for new product announcements both tomorrow and in the months to follow. Gurman, who has a very strong track record, reiterated that this Tuesday's event will be focused on the introduction of new Apple Watch Series 6 and iPad Air models, adding...

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 Will Be Released September 16

Tuesday September 15, 2020 11:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 will be officially released on Wednesday, September 16. Apple has seeded the final Golden Master beta versions of each update to developers in advance. ‌iOS 14‌ and iPadOS 14 introduce dozens of new features, including a redesigned Home Screen that supports widgets on the iPhone and iPad for the first time. For more...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Full Transcript of Apple's 'Time Flies' Event With Apple Watch and iPad Updates

Tuesday September 15, 2020 8:46 am PDT by
Apple's virtual "Time Flies" event kicks off today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, with Apple expected to debut new Apple Watch and iPad models, but it appears we may not see the iPhone 12 until next month. While we're not expecting to see new iPhones today, Apple's software updates for its various platforms are likely nearly ready for launch, so we may be hearing more about them today. Check...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

Everything Apple Announced at Today's iPad and Apple Watch Event in Just Seven Minutes

Tuesday September 15, 2020 2:19 pm PDT by
Apple today held its annual September event, but this year was a bit different because no new iPhones were announced. The "Time Flies" event focused on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the iPad Air, and saw the debut of a new Apple One services bundle. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. It took Apple an hour to introduce the new devices, but we've recapped the event in...