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.

tim cook bloomberg
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

miniyou64 Avatar
32 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)
alex2792 Avatar
32 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)
centauratlas Avatar
32 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)
macjunk(ie) Avatar
32 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)
ctg7w6 Avatar
32 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)
dogslobber Avatar
32 months ago
Rubenstein: "So, Tim, where's the new Mac mini?"
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

m1 chip macbook air pro

Kuo: Redesigned MacBooks With Apple Silicon to Launch in Second Half of 2021

Tuesday November 24, 2020 7:53 pm PST by
Apple plans to release additional MacBook models with Apple Silicon in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, as part of the company's two-year transition away from Intel processors across its Mac lineup. In a research note today, obtained by MacRumors, Kuo said that these MacBook models will feature a new design. Kuo did not specify which models these will be, but he...
2020 apple shopping event

Apple Offering Up to $150 Gift Card With Select Products on Black Friday Through Cyber Monday

Monday November 23, 2020 2:53 am PST by
Apple has announced its annual four-day shopping event, offering customers up to a $150 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of select products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. The gift card values in the United States are as follows: $150 for 16-inch MacBook Pro $150 for 21.5-inch iMac $50 for 13-inch MacBook Pro $50 for MacBook Air $50 for iPhone SE,...
app store christmas icon

Apple Shutting Down App Store Connect From December 23 to December 27

Monday November 23, 2020 10:14 am PST by
Apple shuts down App Store Connect for a week around the holidays each year in an effort to give App Store staff time off from work. This year, App Store Connect will be unavailable from December 23 to December 27. With App Store Connect unavailable, Apple will not accept new apps or app updates, so all pricing changes and new app submissions need to be locked in before those dates for...
Target November Deals 1

Black Friday Spotlight: Target Begins Week-Long Sale With Deals on iPhone 12, Powerbeats Pro, and More

Monday November 23, 2020 8:07 am PST by
We've been tracking early Black Friday deals in our dedicated Black Friday Roundup, and in an effort to prepare our readers for the big shopping event we're highlighting sales store-by-store in the lead-up to November 27. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running....
mac mini macbook pro macbook air

Apple M1 Hands-On Comparison: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac Mini

Monday November 23, 2020 3:40 pm PST by
Apple's M1 Macs are out in the wild now, but ahead of the holidays, you might still be trying to figure out which one to pick up, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else. We've got all three of the new Macs available, so we thought we'd give MacRumors readers a hands-on overview of each machine in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...
max tech xcode benchmark m1 macbook

Video Demos Performance Differences Between 8GB and 16GB Apple M1 MacBook Pro

Monday November 23, 2020 2:54 pm PST by
All of the M1 Mac models use the same M1 chip, so the upgrade options are limited to SSD storage space and RAM. We haven't seen many comparisons that demonstrate the difference between a machine with 8GB RAM and the upgraded 16GB RAM option, but Max Tech today shared a video highlighting the performance between an 8GB MacBook Pro and a 16GB MacBook Pro. The video includes a series of...
new mac mini logicpro screen

M1 Macs Able to Run Up to Six External Displays Using DisplayLink

Tuesday November 24, 2020 6:53 am PST by
It is possible to run up to six external displays from the M1 Mac mini, and five external displays from the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, with the aid of DisplayPort adapters, according to YouTuber Ruslan Tulupov. This far exceeds Apple's specified limits on external displays with the M1 Macs. Apple's host of new M1 Macs are not capable of supporting as many external displays as their...
iPads black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best iPad Deals

Tuesday November 24, 2020 8:51 am PST by
Although we're still a few days away from the official launch of Black Friday, we've known for a few weeks that many retailers would be kicking off discounts ahead of November 27. Because of this trend, today we're tracking discounts across Apple's lineup of iPads, including the 10.2-inch iPad and 2020 iPad Pro. More sales are likely to appear as the week progresses, and when they do we'll update ...
13 16 inch macbook pro air trio

Reliable Leaker Suggests Redesigned MacBooks in 2021 Will Include Both Apple Silicon and Intel Models

Wednesday November 25, 2020 9:15 am PST by
Reliable leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today suggested on Twitter that redesigned MacBooks coming in the second half of 2021 will include models with both Apple Silicon chips and Intel processors. The brief Tweet came in response to a MacRumors article from earlier today, which outlined a report from Ming-Chi Kuo claiming that Apple plans to release redesigned MacBook models with Apple ...
ipad pro 2020 display

Black Friday Week Kicks Off With Up to $150 Savings on 2020 iPad Pro

Sunday November 22, 2020 2:37 pm PST by
As we head into Black Friday week, we're seeing some of the best deals of the season so far, with Amazon and Best Buy today discounting the latest iPad Pro models by up to $150 at the lowest prices we've ever tracked on these models. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep ...