Rick Tetzeli, Executive Editor of Fast Company and coauthor of Becoming Steve Jobs, had the chance to sit down with Tim Cook for a reasonably long Q&A. Presumably, this interview was done as background for the book.
The whole interview was fascinating reading, but here are a few tidbits:
Steve felt that most people live in a small box. They think they can’t influence or change things a lot. I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I’ve ever met, Steve never accepted that.
He got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.
That was the huge arc of his life, the common thread. That’s what drove him to have big ideas. Through his actions, way more than any preaching, he embedded this nonacceptance of the status quo into the company.
You look at the watch, and the primary technologies are software and the UI [user interface]. You’re working with a small screen, so you have to invent new ways for input. The inputs that work for a phone, a tablet, or a Mac don’t work as well on a smaller screen. Most of the companies who have done smartwatches haven’t thought that through, so they’re still using pinch-to-zoom and other gestures that we created for the iPhone.
Try to do those on a watch and you quickly find out they don’t work. So out of that thinking come new ideas, like force touch. [On a small screen] you need another dimension of a user interface. So just press a little harder and you bring up another UI that has been hidden. This makes the screen seem larger, in some ways, than it really is.
The magic of Apple, from a product point of view, happens at this intersection of hardware, software, and services. It’s that intersection. Without collaboration, you get a Windows product. There’s a company that pumps out an operating system, another that does some hardware, and yet another that does something else. That’s what’s now happening in Android land. Put it all together and it doesn’t score high on the user experience.
It’s more complex to do things like continuity. Now the customer wants to start an email on their iPhone and complete it on their iPad or Mac. They want a seamless experience across all of the products. When you’re only doing a Mac, that seamless experience is a party of one. Now you’ve got a three-dimensional thing, and the cloud. So it is more complex. There’s no doubt.
What we try to do is hide all of that complexity from the user. We hide the fact that doing this is really tough, hard engineering so that the user can go about their day and use our tools the way they would want and not have to worry about it. Sometimes we’re not perfect with that. That’s the crack that you’re talking about. Sometimes we’re not. But that, too, we will fix.
In my mind, there is nothing that’s incorrect about our model. It’s not that it’s not doable, it’s that we’re human sometimes, and we make an error. I don’t have a goal of becoming inhuman, but I do have a goal of not having any errors. We’ve made errors in the past, and we’ll never be perfect. Fortunately, we have the courage to admit it and correct it.
There is so much more to this interview. Take the time to read the whole thing. Well worth it.