Emerging Technology

Apple chief Tim Cook gives first major speech since death of Steve Jobs – five key messages

Patrick Stafford /

Tim Cook has been under a lot of pressure since taking the top job at Apple. Having to live up to Steve Jobs’ legacy, and continue to deliver ground-breaking products, is no mean feat.

But in his first major speech as chief executive, to the Goldman Sachs’ Technology Conference, Cook managed to relieve some fears that he isn’t up to the task – and may have even planted some seeds of a new product.

Cook has always been seen as a management type of executive, focusing more on costs and supply. But this speech has given some indication that he may be adopting that type of product-focused persona Jobs used so well.

Here are five key points to take away from Cook’s speech.

The culture isn’t going anywhere

The culture built at Apple over years by Steve Jobs is incredibly powerful, resulting in the production of several ground-breaking products. As Jobs passed away, however, fears have continued to grow over how that culture would be altered – and whether the company would be worse off.

Cook appreciates all of this, and truly has an understanding of what makes the company so great, even though he has a very different style of leadership compared with Jobs. And he maintained during his speech that “Apple has a unique culture you can’t replicate”.

“And I’m not going to witness or permit the slow undoing of it because I believe in it so deeply. Steve grilled in all of us over many years that the company should revolve around great products, and that we should stay extremely focused on a few things, rather than try to do so many that we did nothing well.”

“And that we should only go into markets where we can make a significant contribution to society – not just sell a lot of products.”

An Apple TV may just be on the cards

There’s a lot of speculation building about whether Apple will release a television. All signs are pointing to the company at least toying with the idea, with reports of manufacturers sourcing components for prototypes, along with various mobile carriers being involved in some capacity.

Cook seemed to even hint at the idea Apple is looking at this area.

He said the current Apple TV is a “hobby”, a line used by Jobs as well, but then went on to say that “Apple doesn’t do hobbies as a general rule”.

He noted that he “always thought there was something there, and that if we kept following our intuition and kept pulling that string, we might find something larger”.

Apple will post monthly reports on labour conditions

Scrutiny has been building over working conditions at Apple’s factories in China, with a major piece in the New York Times prompting protests at Apple stores. Now, the company has pledged that it will use a third-party to audit its factories, searching for any hint of abuse.

Cook appears to take this issue pretty seriously, suggesting the company will publish monthly data on its website of working hours and whether working conditions are improving.

“There’s a production process that can be made safer, we seek out the foremost authorities, foremost experts, and cut out a new standard, and take that and apply it to the supply chain. We focus on the details. If there’s a fire extinguisher missing from the cafeteria, then that facility doesn’t pass inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.”

They’re still figuring out what to do with all that cash

Apple has $US98 billion in the bank. That’s a huge amount of money, and the company has been criticised for being a tad greedy. But Cook says he wants to be patient, although he acknowledges the business has more money than it needs to run on a daily basis.

“I’d say we’re judicious, we’re deliberate,” he said. “We spend our money like it’s our last penny. I think shareholders want us to do that. I don’t think they want us to act like we’re rich.”

“I said since becoming CEO that I’m not religious about this. I’m not religious about holding it, or not holding it.”

“We’re in very active discussions in the board about what we’ll do with it, but I think people want us to be deliberate.”

Prices aren’t coming down any time soon

Apple is coming under a little bit of new competition from Amazon with its Kindle Fire tablet, priced at just $US200. But despite that threat, Cook says Apple isn’t keen on lowering its prices any time soon.

“Price is rarely the most important thing,” he said.

“A cheap product might sell some units. Somebody gets it home and they feel great when they pay the money, but then they get it home and use it and the joy is gone.”

“The joy is gone everyday that they use it until they aren’t using it anymore. You don’t keep remembering ‘I got a good deal!’ because you hate it.”

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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