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Following his speech at Tulane University last month, Tim Cook today delivered the commencement address at Stanford University. During the speech, Cook invoked Steve Jobs, talked digital privacy, and much more.
Tim Cook’s speech at Stanford today was made even more notable by the fact that Steve Jobs, a college dropout, delivered the commencement address at the school 14 years ago. Cook referenced this during his speech today. The Apple CEO explained that Stanford and Silicon Valley have long been woven together, but that recent events demand some reflection.
Stanford and Silicon Valley’s roots are woven together. We’re part of the same ecosystem. It was true when Steve stood on this stage 14 years ago. It’s true today and presumably it will be true for awhile longer still. The past few decades have lifted us together. But today, we gather at a moment that demands some reflection.
Fueled by caffeine and code, optimism and idealism, conviction and creativity, generations of Stanford graduates – and dropouts – have used technology to remake our society. But I think you would agree that lately the results haven’t been neat or straightforward. In just the four years you’ve been here at the farm, things feel like they’ve taken a sharp turn. Crisis has tempered optimism, consequences have challenged idealism, and reality has shaken blind faith. And yet we are still drawn here. For good reason; big dreams live here as do the genius and passion to make them real.
Cook said that Silicon Valley is responsible for numerous revolutionary inventions, but that lately, the industry is becoming known for people claiming credit without claiming responsibility. “We see it everyday now, with every data breach, every privacy violation, every blind eye turned to hate speech, and fake news poisoning our national conversation,” Cook said.
Whether you like it or not what you build defines who you are. If you build a chaos factory you can’t deny responsibility for the chaos. There are few areas where this is more important than privacy. If we accept this normal and unavoidable that everything can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human.
In a world without digital privacy, even if you have done nothing wrong other than think differently, you begin to censor yourself. Your generation ought to have the same freedom to shape the future as the generation that came before. Graduates, at the very least, learn from these mistakes. If you want to take credit, first learn to take responsibility.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) June 16, 2023
Cook also encouraged Stanford graduates to be builders – and to recognize the fact that their life’s work will one day be bigger than they are. Cook personally explained that he is incredibly thankful for what those at the Stonewall Inn had the courage to build nearly 50 years ago:
Whatever you do with your life, be a builder. You don’t have to start from scratch to build something monumental. And conversely, the best founders, ones whose creations last, and whose reputations grow rather than shrink with passing time, they spend most of their time building piece by piece. Builders are comfortable in the belief that one day their life’s work will be bigger than them. Bigger than any one person. They’re mindful that their effects will span generations. That’s not an accident, and in a way, it’s the whole point.
In a few days, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the riots at Stonewall. When the patrons of the Stonewall Inn showed up that night, people of all races, gay and transgender, young and old had no idea what history had in store for them. It would have seemed foolish to dream it. It was just another instance of the world telling them they ought to feel worthless for being different. But the group gathered there felt something strengthen in them. A convicting that they deserved something better than the shadows and better than oblivion. And if it wasn’t going to be given, then they were going to have to build it themselves.
I was 8 years old and a thousand miles away when Stonewall happened. There were no news alerts, no way for photos to go viral, no mechanism for a kid on the Gulf Coast to hear these unlikely heroes tell their stories. Greenwich Village may have well as been a different planet; though I can tell you that slurs and the hatred was the same. What I would not know for a long time was what I owned to a group of people in a place I’d never been. I will never stop being grateful for what they had the courage to build.
Cook referenced Steve Jobs’ speech as well, offering a corollary to what Jobs said during his address:
As for Jobs’ passing, Cook explained that he was initially in disbelief that Jobs wouldn’t be leading Apple for many years to come. Cook said that after Jobs’ death, he was “the loneliest” he’s ever felt in his life:
When Steve got sick, I had hardwired my thinking to belief that he would get better. I not only thought he would hold on, I was convinced down to my core that he’d still be guiding Apple long after I myself was gone.
Then one day he called me over to his house and told me that it wasn’t going to be that way. Even then, I was convinced he would stay on as chairman. That he would step back from the day-to-day, but always be there as a sounding board. But there was no reason to believe that. I never should have thought it. The facts were all there. And when he has gone, truly gone, I learned the real visceral difference between preparation and readiness. It was the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life by an order of magnitude.
It was one of those moments where you can be surrounded by people, yet you don’t really see, hear, feel them. But I could sense their expectations. When the dust settled, all I knew was that I was going to have to be the best version of myself that I could be. I knew that if you got out of bed every morning and set your watch by what other people expect or demand, it’d drive you crazy. So what was true then is true now. Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life. It takes too much mental effort; effort that should be dedicated to creating or building.
In closing, Tim Cook encouraged Stanford graduates to be different and leave something worthy – and know that they will one day have to pass it on:
Graduates, the fact is, when your time comes, and it will, you’ll never be ready. But you’re not supposed to be. Find the hope in the unexpected. Find the courage in the challenge. Find your vision on the solitary road. Don’t get distracted. There are too many people who want credit without responsibility. Too many who show up to the ribbon cutting without building anything worth ta damn.
Be different, leave something worthy, and always remember that you can’t take it with you. You’re going to have to pass it on.
Tim Cook’s full commencement address at Stanford can be viewed below.
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There wasn’t a whole lot new in this chunk of the Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, which Yukari Kane mostly focuses on Apple CEO Tim Cook and his characteristics that are often the opposite of Steve Jobs. Cook is a character but not the same character that brought Apple to its current success.
From the WSJ excerpt:
As tough as Cook was reputed to be, he was also generous. He gave away the frequent-flier miles that he racked up as Christmas gifts, and he volunteered at a soup kitchen during the Thanksgiving holidays. He had also participated in an annual two-day cycling event across Georgia to raise money for multiple sclerosis; Cook had been a supporter since being misdiagnosed with the disease years before. “The doctor said, ‘Mr. Cook, you’ve either had a stroke, or you have MS,’ ” Cook told the Auburn alumni magazine. He didn’t have either. His symptoms had been produced from “lugging a lot of incredibly heavy luggage around.”
An earlier piece in the New Yorker online edition painted a dreary picture of Apple post Steve Jobs and the video above does delve into that viewpoint a bit.
Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 7, looks pretty but is full of bugs and flaws. As for innovation, the last time Apple created something that was truly great was the original iPad, when Jobs was still alive. Although the company’s C.E.O., Tim Cook, insists otherwise, Apple seems more eager to talk about the past than about the future.
From the video:
[Has Apple lost its touch? Are they still King of the Hill?]
KANE: I think the answer is obvious to me. The answer has got to be yes. This is a company who had revolved around Steve Jobs for so long, I mean that was something that Jobs himself went out of his way to make sure of. And the people there are conditioned to operate, to play off of his strengths and weaknesses. And so now you’ve got this completely opposite guy in Tim Cook, who is I think brilliant in many ways, but in different ways. But so they’re going through some growing pains in that.
Meanwhile, Publishers Weekly has the following review of the book:
Jan 27, 2014 – The globe-bestriding computer-maker loses its soul in this lively business history. Former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Kane follows Apple after the 2011 death of founder Steve Jobs as the company’s knack for conjuring breakthrough i-gadgets lapsed into a series of ho-hum upgrades, misfires like the befuddled artificial intelligence app Siri, and interminable patent lawsuits, while market share, profits, and stock price eroded. Kane makes the story a study in CEO leadership styles, contrasting Jobs’s visionary bluster with his successor Tim Cook’s icy bean-counting and the histrionics of Samsung’s “wise emperor” Lee Kun-hee, whose quality crusade involved burning an entire factory’s inventory in front of its weeping employees. Kane unearths plenty of colorful material here, including lawyerly jousting, hilariously lame new-product unveilings, and conference-room psychodramas between bullying execs and groveling underlings. The author’s great-man theory of Jobs’s “unfiltered” leadership as the indispensable motor of Apple’s innovation doesn’t explain much; her unusually rich dissection of Apple’s ugly dealings with its FoxConn manufacturing partner suggests that Cook’s merciless wringing of profits out of exploited Chinese labor is as much the soul of Apple as Jobs’s oft-hyped intuition for design. Still, this well-paced, vividly detailed narrative reveals the machine surrounding the Jobsian ghost at Apple and brings the company’s high-flying mythology down to earth.© Publishers Weekly
Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs is available March 18th from Harper Collins ($12.74 Amazon/$14.99 iBookstore)
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Earlier this evening, Tim Cook sat down with Brian Williams on NBC’s Rock Center and gave his first TV interview since he became Apple’s CEO. The two talked about a number of things including Steve Jobs, Apple’s plans for the television, and the Maps debacle.
If you missed the show, don’t worry, iDB has you covered. We’ve got part 1 and part 2 of Cook’s interview for you after the fold. Unfortunately, NBC still insists on using Flash to post its videos, so you’ll need to be on compatible hardware in order to view them…
The discussion kicks off at an Apple Store in lower Manhattan, and Williams’ first question for Cook is a doozy: “How are you not Steve Jobs?” He responds by saying that Jobs told him on several occasions to never question what he would do, but to “just do what was right.”
Williams then moves on to iOS Maps — Apple’s in-house replacement for Google Maps. The company has taken quite a bit of heat over the premature launch, which eventually led to a public apology and possibly an executive leaving. “How big of a set back was Maps?” he asked.
“It didn’t meet our customers expectations, and our expectations of ourselves are even higher than our customers. However, I can tell you — we screwed up — we are putting the weight of the company behind correcting it.”
Cook skillfully breezes past Williams’ direct question about Forstall’s ousting and the discussion moves on to other topics like Apple’s legendary secrecy and the new Lightning dock connector. And eventually it arrives at Samsung and its latest Apple-bashing TV ad.
“We love our customers, and we’ll fight to defend them with anyone. Is it thermonuclear war? The reality is that we love competition at Apple. We think it makes us all better. But we want people to invent their own stuff.”
On to part 2:
Part 2 of the conversation also includes some interesting tidbits, and Cook talks about why Apple outsources its manufacturing. But the juiciest part comes when Williams asks “What can Apple do for television watching? What do you know that is going to change the game?”
“It’s a market that we see, that has been left behind. You know, I used to watch “The Jetsons” as a kid. I love “The Jetsons.” We’re living “The Jetsons” with this [iPhone]. It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”
Between Cook saying that he can’t speak to Apple’s future television plans, and the coy smile on his face, you have to think that there just may be some truth to the rumors. You know, a lot of people thought that there was no way Apple would make an iPad mini, yet here we are.
For me, that was the highlight of the interview. Up until now, all we’ve heard about Apple’s purported TV strategy has come via pundits, and analysts with sketchy supply chain sources. But this, I think this proves that Apple has something up its sleeve for the living room.
What did you think?
Yesterday the New York Times published a comprehensive piece detailing Apple’s failure to effectively pursue safer working conditions in its overseas manufacturing plants.
Although the article could apply to virtually every tech company – most of them work with Foxconn – Apple was the main target, probably because it’s a company with such strong values, that you would expect more from them.
To reply to the allegations, Tim Cook sent an email to his troops, ensuring that Apple cares about every worker in its supply chain…
9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman got his hands on the email sent to Apple employees, which we have copied below:
As a company and as individuals, we are defined by our values. Unfortunately some people are questioning Apple’s values today, and I’d like to address this with you directly. We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. Any accident is deeply troubling, and any issue with working conditions is cause for concern. Any suggestion that we don’t care is patently false and offensive to us. As you know better than anyone, accusations like these are contrary to our values. It’s not who we are.
For the many hundreds of you who are based at our suppliers’ manufacturing sites around the world, or spend long stretches working there away from your families, I know you are as outraged by this as I am. For the people who aren’t as close to the supply chain, you have a right to know the facts.
Every year we inspect more factories, raising the bar for our partners and going deeper into the supply chain. As we reported earlier this month, we’ve made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers. We know of no one in our industry doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people.
At the same time, no one has been more up front about the challenges we face. We are attacking problems aggressively with the help of the world’s foremost authorities on safety, the environment, and fair labor. It would be easy to look for problems in fewer places and report prettier results, but those would not be the actions of a leader.
Earlier this month we opened our supply chain for independent evaluations by the Fair Labor Association. Apple was in a unique position to lead the industry by taking this step, and we did it without hesitation. This will lead to more frequent and more transparent reporting on our supply chain, which we welcome. These are the kinds of actions our customers expect from Apple, and we will take more of them in the future.
We are focused on educating workers about their rights, so they are empowered to speak up when they see unsafe conditions or unfair treatment. As you know, more than a million people have been trained by our program.
To those within Apple who are tackling these issues every day, you have our thanks and admiration. Your work is significant and it is changing people’s lives. We are all proud to work alongside you.
I really commend Tim Cook for this reply. It’s something we would have never seen under Steve Jobs’ reign. Tim’s answer was very well laid out. It was clear, honest, and it shows the willingness to make things better, and not just sit back hoping people will forget about this tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think Apple is doing enough? What can they do to make this better?
Earlier today, Apple announced some major changes to its management team. The company’s SVP of iOS Software, Scott Forstall, will be leaving next year, as will SVP of Retail John Browett. Other executives, particularly Jony Ive, will be picking up Forstall’s responsibilities, and a search is underway for Browett’s replacement.
This afternoon, Tim Cook sent an internal email to Apple employees regarding the management changes, and thanked Scott for his many years of service. We’ve got that email after the break…
Tim Cook’s letter to employees, via 9to5Mac:
We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple’s history. The amazing products that we’ve introduced in September and October – iPhone 5, iOS6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications – could only have been created at Apple, and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services.
Jony Ive will provide leadership and direction for Human Interface (HI) across the company in addition to his longtime role as the leader of Industrial Design. Jony has an incredible design aesthetic and has been the driving force behind the look and feel of our products for more than a decade. The face of many of our products is our software and the extension of Jony’s skills into this area will widen the gap between Apple and our competition.
Eddy Cue will take on the additional responsibility of Siri and Maps. This places all of our online services in one group. Eddy and his organization have overseen major successes such as the iTunes Store, the App Store, the iBookstore and iCloud. They have an excellent track record of building and strengthening our online services to meet and exceed the high expectations of our customers.
Bob Mansfield will lead a new group, Technologies, which combines all of our wireless teams across the company in one organization, allowing us to innovate in this area at an even higher level. This organization will also include all of our semiconductor teams, who have some very ambitious plans. As part of this, I am thrilled to tell you that Bob will remain with Apple for an additional two years. Bob has led some of our most challenging engineering projects for many years.
Additionally, John Browett is leaving Apple. Our search for a new head of Retail is already underway. In the meantime, the Retail team will report directly to me. Retail has an incredibly strong network of leaders at the store and regional level, and they will continue the excellent work they’ve done over the past decade to revolutionize retailing with unique, innovative services and a focus on the customer that is second to none. This phenomenal team of talented and dedicated people works their hearts out making our customers happy. They have our respect, our admiration and our undying support.
Please join me in congratulating everyone on their new roles.
I’d like to thank everyone for working so hard so that Apple can continue to make the world’s best products and delight our customers. I continue to believe that Apple has the most talented and most innovative people on the planet, and I feel privileged and inspired to be able to work with all of you.
The first biography of Apple CEO Tim Cook is out today. Written by Leander Kahney, who wrote a previous biography of Jony Ive, the title gives a pretty good clue to the overall tone: Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level.
The early reviews suggests that, for those who already follow Apple coverage closely, there’s only one section that will tell you things you didn’t already know …
That’s a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the San Bernardino iPhone case.
The Times says that the rest of it is pretty much PR fluff, though does contain some ‘awkward facts.’
This book is a hagiography. If the title does not make that clear, the acknowledgments do. Leander Kahney, the self-styled “world’s leading reporter on Apple”, thanks Apple’s PR team for their “invaluable help and assistance”. He has certainly returned the favour. His book makes Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, sound like God himself. Much of the prose is so craven, it’s funny.
Cook is the most high-profile gay CEO in the world, yet Kahney says: “While researching this book, I didn’t pry into his personal life at all. Cook keeps his private life private, and I’m happy to respect that.” Imagine anyone writing a biography of Steve Jobs, Cook’s fiery predecessor, without discussing his tortured family life.
The review references some stories that present Apple is a less flattering light, but these aren’t new.
On another occasion, when Foxconn was building the first iMac, the company’s design engineers had a problem with a new button for the computer. The button was untested and the designers were worried it might fail with prolonged use. So what did Foxconn do? It got minimum-wage workers to stay up all night pushing it. It was cheaper than designing a machine to do the job. Kahney points out that working practices at Foxconn have improved lately.
To be fair to Apple, it has a pretty brutal work ethic itself. Kahney reveals that 30 minutes into a meeting about a serious supply problem in China, Cook turned to a key executive and asked him: “Why are you still here?” The executive got up, drove straight to San Francisco airport and got on the first flight to China with no return date.
Which is a problem AppleInsider highlights.
Both this and the previous Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products do have the problem that their subjects did not talk to Kahney directly. Apple did not make Cook available for the current book […]
Instead, the majority of quotes and interviews in the book are from previously published accounts. Kahney acknowledges this and he’s made a comprehensive bio using them, but it still means that points tend to be familiar. Since Cook says little publicly, compared to Steve Jobs for instance, there’s a good chance that you already know most of the quotes from him.
Similarly, the book takes a look at Project Titan – the Apple Car project – but an excerpt in Financial Express again suggests it contains nothing new, ending:
Right now, the status of Apple’s Project Titan isn’t clear. It may or may not be on track.
Kirkus Review takes a somewhat kinder view, describing it as ‘occasionally hagiographic but mostly illuminating,’ but also gives a clue as to the level of detail that might be expected by those who already follow Apple coverage.
Kahney’s book is no rags-to-riches, blow-by-blow timeline of Cook’s life. While that element is present, the volume is more a study in comparisons: Jobs was this way, here’s how Cook differs, and here are the sum effects of those differences.
The first Tim Cook biography is available today on Amazon and Apple Books.
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