With the iPod, before it came out, we didn’t
really know that it would become as big.
But it was clear it was changing things
in an incredibly good way. Of course with
the iPhone it was clear that that was a
huge change, a category definer, but who
would’ve thought [it would have impact] to
the degree that it [did].
We forget that the iPhone wasn’t immediately embraced by everyone. [People
said] it could never work because it didn’t
have a physical keyboard. With each of our
products there’s that kind of story. Over the
long haul, you just have to have faith that
the strategy itself leads to [financial results]
and not get distracted and focus on them.
Because focusing on them doesn’t really
do anything. It probably makes the results
worse because you take your eye off what
So what does matter? It’s always products
and people. The question at the end of every
year, or every month or every week or every
day, is, Did we make progress on that front?
Given the relentless pace of change in the
world, how do you prioritize what Apple is
going to spend its time on, which things
deserve attention and which things are
distractions? There is more noise in the
world than change. One of my roles is to try
to block the noise from the people who are
really doing the work. That’s tougher and
tougher in this environment. The priorities
are about saying no to a bunch of great ideas.
We can do more things than we used to do
because we’re a bit bigger. But in the scheme
of things versus our revenue, we’re doing
very few things. I mean, you could put every
product we’re making on this table, to put it
in perspective. I doubt anybody that is anywhere near our revenue could say that.
You have to make sure that you’re focused
on the thing that matters. And we do that fairly well. I worked at a company a while back,
many years ago, where every hallway you
go in, you would see their stock price being
monitored. You will not find that here. And
not because you can get it on your iPhone.
Do the investment markets make innovation harder? Or does Wall Street motivate
change? The truth is, it has little to no effect
on us. But we are an outlier. More generally, if you look at America, the 90-day clock
[measuring results by each fiscal quarter] is
a negative. Why would you ever measure a
business on 90 days when its investments
are long term?
is better, like HomePod, which is not the
first home speaker. How do you decide
when it’s okay to follow? I wouldn’t say
“follow.” I wouldn’t use that word because
that implies we waited for somebody to see
what they were doing. That’s actually not
what’s happening. What’s happening if you
look under the sheets, which we probably
don’t let people do, is that we start projects
years before they come out. You could take
every one of our products—iPod, iPhone,
iPad, Apple Watch—they weren’t the first,
but they were the first modern one, right?
In each case, if you look at when we
started, I would guess that we started much
before other people did, but we took our time
to get it right. Because we don’t believe in
using our customers as a laboratory. What
we have that I think is unique is patience.
We have patience to wait until something is
great before we ship it.
So this differentiation I’m trying to
create between Face ID on one end and
HomePod on the other, you don’t see it
that way. I think about things from a core
technology point of view. If you look at the
core technology in each of our products,
we had to start working on it years before
the product shipped. With iPhone X, for
And the payoff doesn’t necessarily happen on that kind of cadence. No, of course
not. If I were king for a day, that whole thing
would change. But when I really get down to
it, here, it affects a few of us because we have
to do a quarterly call and so forth, but does
it affect the company? No.
So what compels you to wow consumers
year after year with new products? What
drives us is making products that give people
the ability to do things they couldn’t do before. Take iPhone X, the portrait-lighting
feature. This is something that you had to be
a professional photographer with a certain
setup to do in the past. Now, iPhone X is not
a cheap product, but a lighting rig—these
things were tens of thousands, hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
And an iPhone X does more than just
take pictures. There are so many parts. With
ARKit, we created something that essentially took the heavy lifting with [augmented
reality] and put it in the operating system,
which empowers thousands of developers eventually to be able to build AR into
their apps. Some will be very profound, life
changing. There is no doubt about that in
Sometimes Apple takes the lead, intro-
ducing unique features—Face ID, for
instance. Other times you’re okay to fol-
low, as long as you deliver what you feel
With its emphasis on sound quality,
the HomePod smart speaker amplifies
Apple’s commitment to music.