Steve Jobs Criticized Tim Cook as 'Not a Product Person,' Says Biographer Walter Isaacson

"Steve Jobs" biographer Walter Isaacson was on Squawk Box this week, and in an interview he mentioned that he "softened" parts of the book when it came to certain Jobs quotes (via CNBC).


Particularly, Jobs was said to have criticized current Apple CEO Tim Cook for not being a "product person." According to Isaacson, "Steve says how ‌Tim Cook‌ can do everything, and then he looked at me and said, 'Tim's not a product person.'"

Isaacson said that he wanted to soften certain things that he thought were too harsh in his biography of Steve Jobs. The book first launched in October 2011, just 19 days after Jobs died from pancreatic cancer.

“Sometimes when Steve was in pain ... and he was angry, he would say more things that [Cook] was not a product person,” recalled Isaacson. “I felt I would put in the specific things that were relevant to the reader but not the complaints.”

Cook was also mentioned in a recent piece by The Wall Street Journal, which focused on Jony Ive, who reportedly became "dispirited" because of Cook's lack of interest in the product development process. Ive announced that he will leave Apple later this year and start his own design studio, with Apple as one of its primary clients.


Isaacson has been critical of Apple as a whole in the past, believing in 2014 that Amazon and Google had overtaken Apple to become the most innovative technology companies of the modern day. At the time, he specifically referenced virtual assistants as a space where Apple needed improvement.

Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs went on to be the basis for Aaron Sorkin's screenplay of the Danny Boyle-directed film "Steve Jobs." The film was well received by critics, earning four Golden Globe Award nominations and two Academy Award nominations.

Top Rated Comments

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16 months ago
Tim is CEO, he doesn't need to be a product person...but somebody at Apple does. :-)
Score: 68 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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16 months ago
That’s why Tim Cook hasn’t replaced Steve Jobs. No one will. And Apple knows that. Cook is an actual CEO, performing the tasks of a CEO. He knows to defer to people in the company that have the skills needed to imagine, engineer and market a product. He surrounds himself with the best people in their respective areas of expertise. That’s what a CEO is supposed to do.

Steve was unique in that he wasn’t exactly a CEO in the traditional sense. He was a Chief Executive Visionary. Even while Jobs was here, day to day running of the company, traditionally tasks run the CEO, were run by the COO — non other than Tim Cook. That’s why he transitioned so seamlessly into the role.

We’re lucky that Tim Cook knows that he’s not a product guy. That was the problem with Gil Amelio. He wasn’t either but the difference between Amelio and Cook is that he thought he was and tried to be another Steve Jobs. Someone with a lack of introspection and a self critical eye, who thinks they know best about what a product should do and look like, who has the power to push forward despite what people with actual talent advise against, could destroy the company. Gil Amelio almost did. Tim Cook, on the other hand has deferred to his experts, knowing that designing and engineering products is not his expertise. And Apple has flourished under his tenure.
Score: 62 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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16 months ago
As if we didn't know this. Duh!
Score: 55 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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16 months ago
Weird how once every couple of years Isaacson comes forward with another revelation that for some reason didn’t make it into his book.
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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16 months ago
Walter Isaacson is an opportunist who wants to milk his horribly-written biography even more.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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16 months ago
He was right.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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