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Tim Cook speaks at length about Steve Jobs and how Apple has moved on

Recent revelations about Steve Jobs are coming out from a variety of sources lately, including a new biography, documentary, and upcoming film. Apple guards Jobs’ legacy like a fiercely protective dragon. Everyone from Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, and Tim Cook has repudiated claims that Jobs was an unfeeling perfectionist. The most recent, and perhaps most touching, defense of Jobs’ legacy came from an interview between Fast Company and Tim Cook.

Apple’s current CEO discussed a variety of topics, including the Apple Watch, Google’s fragmentation problems, and Apple’s role in the world of technology.

Don’t put Steve Jobs in a box — He won’t accept it

Depending on who you ask, Jobs was either a messianistic visionary or an ice-cold perfectionist, who was prone to bursts of fury. Cook says that he was much more complex than that, and people shouldn’t try to put him into a neat category.

“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,” Cook said. “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.”

Cook believes that Jobs “embedded this nonacceptance of the status quo into the company,” and that it’s one of the reasons why Apple is always pushing the envelope and moving ahead without sacrificing quality. Too many companies focus on putting out the most phones, grabbing the most users, and end up losing creating generic things that nobody wants.

“There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most. How many clicks did you get, how many active users do you have, how many units did you sell? Everybody in technology seems to want big numbers,” Cook said. “Steve never got carried away with that. He focused on making the best.”

Apple worked hard to make the smartwatch its own

One of the main criticisms of the Apple Watch is that it isn’t all that different from every other smartwatch out there. Cook argues that the key thing with the Watch is its user interface, which is dramatically different from Android Wear, Tizen, WebOS, and others.

“There’s this thing in technology, almost a disease, where the definition of success is making the most.”

“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,” Cook explained. “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.”

Cook believes that the other main issue that smartwatches suffer is the same problem that Android phones have: One company makes the software, another makes the hardware, and that inevitably creates friction. Indeed, Huawei recently complained that Android Wear isn’t customizable enough, and Samsung, Asus, HTC, LG, and others have all either made smartwatches with their own operating systems onboard, or have plans to do so soon.

“Steve recognized early on that being vertical gave us the power to produce great customer experience. For a long while, that was viewed as crazy logic,” Cook said. “More and more people have opened their eyes to the fact that he was right, that you need all those things working together.”

Cook also stated that “the magic of Apple, from a product point of view, happens at this intersection of hardware, software, and services,” adding that, “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.”

Next page: Why the Apple Watch is necessary

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