Apple CEO Tim Cook has opened up on several core issues surrounding the company as he marks five years as chief executive since Steve Jobs passed away.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Cook covered key topics ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), to his mistakes and how the company plans for the future.
Perhaps most notably, Cook gave strong hints that AI will become even more integral to the iPhone experience, building on the foundations laid by the Siri assistant.
“Look at the core technologies that make up the smartphone today and look at the ones that will be dominant in smartphones of the future, like AI. AI will make this product even more essential to you. It will become an even better assistant than it is today,” he said.
“So where you probably aren’t leaving home without it today, you’re really going to be connected to it in the future. That level of performance is going to skyrocket.”
Apple recently spent a rumoured $200m on an AI startup called Turi, so the technology is clearly top of the company's agenda, although Cook also suggested that AR is being looked at in Apple’s labs.
“I think AR is extremely interesting and sort of a core technology. So, yes, it’s something we’re doing a lot of things on behind that curtain,” he said.
FBI unlock case
Cook also talked about Apple’s clash with the FBI last year when the firm was asked to unlock the iPhone 5C of a terrorist. Apple discovered quickly that it could be done, but Cook decided that it should not.
“Could we create a tool to unlock the phone? After a few days, we had determined that, yes, we could. Then the question was, ethically, should we?" he said.
“We thought that depends on whether we could contain it or not. Other people were involved in this too, deep security experts and so forth, and it was apparent from those discussions that we couldn’t be assured.”
Mistakes along the way
Cook acknowledged that not everything has gone swimmingly during his leadership. He admitted that the release of Maps in 2012 was not a high point for the firm, echoing sentiments from two senior Apple execs last week.
“Maps was a mistake. Today we have a product we’re proud of. [But] we had the self-honesty to admit this wasn’t our finest hour and the courage to choose another way of doing it. That’s important. It’s the only way an organisation learns,” he explained.
Cook also admitted that the hiring of former Dixons CEO John Browett as head of retail did not work out from the start.
“I hired the wrong person for retail initially. That was clearly a screw-up. I’m not saying anything bad about him. He didn’t fit here culturally is a good way to describe it," he said.
"We all talked to him, and I made the final decision, and it was wrong. We fairly quickly recognised it and made a change."
Cook touched on the firm's focus on the business market, claiming that partnerships with other companies will continue the growth seen so far.
"Last year we did $25bn or so in [the business market] around the world. We’re collaborating much better with key partners because it’s important, if you’re making a decision to use our products or anybody’s products in the enterprise, that they work well together," he said.
"So we’re working with Cisco because they’re incredible with the network infrastructure. We’re working with IBM, which has written a number of apps. We’re working with SAP because it owns the back of the house in terms of the processing."
Finally, Cook revealed that replacements for his role are discussed regularly just in case the worst should happen.
“At the end of every board meeting, I discuss succession with the board because I might step off the wrong curb or something,” he said.
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