example, if you look at the Bionic chip, we
started working on that many years before
it came out. Because we [design] our own
silicon, it puts a level of discipline in our
planning process. Now it also gives us an
incredible advantage from a product point
of view, because we can do things that others can’t.
In the magazine business, the issue
doesn’t ship when we’re done with it,
it ships when we have to print it. Sometimes that enforced discipline is valuable in pushing people. On the one hand,
you’re patient, but on the other, you have
to set deadlines, to create a forcing function somehow. You have to have a forcing
function. For us, on the product side, we
have to come up with our silicon requirements three, four-plus years in advance. So
we’ve got things that we’re working on now
that are way out in the 2020s.
You also want to have the flexibility to
go right up until the last minute so that you
are continuing to explore and use the product and discover more things that you want
to do. There has to be a balance. If we try to
allow that kind of flexibility in the silicon
piece, we’d never ship a product.
[A product] is like a train—the train
leaves the station, and if you have a great
idea after that, it’s going on the next train.
You’re not going to call this one back to
We have events, other things, that give
us goals, shipping by a certain time. But ulti-
mately the question is, Is the product great?
Is it ready? And if it’s not, we delay.
How do you factor in outsider opinions?
Some people complain, “Oh, Apple isn’t
coming out with anything new,” and others
will say, “Oh, there is so much new that
we’ve reached Peak Apple.” You’re grinning. We don’t have a tin ear. We definitely
listen. But because we know what’s happening inside the company, we just have to
find another channel to listen to and tune
out the noise.
What about critiques that you get from
consumers? Customers are jewels. Every
day I read a fair number of customer comments, and they vary widely. Some are
writing positive things about a store experience, an employee who did an incredible
job for them. Some are saying, “Hey, I want
a feature that’s not in the product right
now.” Some are saying this feature should
work this way, some are saying they had a
life-changing experience with our product.
right thing. Back in the day, giving people
the ability to buy music digitally. That was
about doing the right thing in a simple and
straightforward manner because at that
time everybody was ripping music off.
Essentially, music was becoming free. We
really try to think through these things.
Music has always been part of the Apple
brand. Apple Music has had a lot of
user growth, but streaming is not a major moneymaker. Do you think about
streaming as a potential stand-alone
profit area, or is it important for other
reasons? Music is interesting because it
inspires people. It motivates people. There
is a deep emotional connection. Apple was
serving musicians with a Macintosh back
in ’ 84–’ 85. So it’s something that’s deep in
Music is a service that we think our users want us to provide. It’s a service that we
worry about the humanity being drained
out of. We worry about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world, instead of the art
You’re right, we’re not in it for the
money. I think it’s
a bunch of them, because it’s sort of like
checking our blood pressure.
Is there some pattern you’re looking
for? I tend to weight the ones that are most
thoughtful. That doesn’t mean polite—I don’t
mind people saying I’m ugly or whatever. It’s
just, what level of thought is it? I care deeply
about what users think.
There’s a lot of talk right now at big tech
companies about the unintended consequences of technological advances. How
do you keep your ear open to those potential things without slowing down the
machinery of change? I’m very sensitive to
that. Our products are all about the people
who use them. What comes with that is trying to anticipate not only the great things
that people can use your products for but
those things that might not be so good, and
try to get out in front of those.
We implemented something in iOS 11
where it detects if you’re in a car and will
shut off your messages and notifications.
That isn’t us playing Big Brother. That’s us
giving you a tool to help you do the right
thing. You can override it; you may be a pas-
senger instead of the driver, and that’s okay.
But we would like to try as many of those
as possible so that we help people do the
Clockwise from top left: The Apple Watch,
iPhone X, and AirPods wowed
consumers—and reviewers—in 2017.
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