Here’s to the Dirty One: Tim Cook and His 53 Minutes with Charlie Rose

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Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down on Thursday for the first half of what will be a two-part interview with Charlie Rose. I’m embedding the video, and below that I’ll have some thoughts.

Some things that got me thinking:

  • This is a good venue for Cook. He’s not tied to a script or performing for a crowd. He’s at a table with another dude in a black room just chatting. He’s humanized.
  • There was a lot of talk about Steve Jobs and the shadow he casts over Cook and Apple as a whole. I don’t think any particular statement by Cook about Jobs is new or newsworthy, but I will say that it’s the first time I got what seemed like a genuine sense of the emotional attachment Cook feels toward Jobs and his memory. You can hear his voice become louder, and see his eyes widen and his gestures sharpen as he talks about Steve and what he continues to mean to Apple. I think it takes an interviewer like Charlie Rose to bring something like that out of as reserved a person as Cook.
  • I really get the sense that when Cook talks about Jobs, he’s talking about a paternal figure, a kind of dad-who’s-my-hero. “I literally think about him every day,” he says. “He’s in my heart.” He talks about how he never really took to heart the idea that he could lose Steve to cancer. “I always thought he would bounce,” he says.
  • It was also telling how sincere his enthusiasm for the Beats acquisition seemed, but not because of headphones, which barely warranted a mention. It really did seem to be all about how the music service “felt” to him, and of course the unspoken part was how much better it was than Apple’s own, which also uses human curation, the Beats’ service claim to fame.
  • When asked who Apple’s competitors are, Cook mentions only Google. Rose offers Samsung as an obvious competitor, but Cook demurs and makes sure to note that Google makes Samsung devices’ operating system. Even Amazon is dismissed as a company that makes a phone that “you don’t see it in a lot of places,” and, yes, “they have some tablets.” And that’s about it.
  • Closer to the end, Cook mentions that Apple is working on “products that haven’t been rumored yet,” and I think I may have some fun with speculation on that one.

Oh right, the Teddy Roosevelt quote they talk about is this:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

And what does Cook say of himself in this context? “I’m the dirty one.”

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