Tim Cook says it's never been his goal to run Apple the exact same way Steve Jobs did. But Jobs' influence is still strongly felt at the company, Cook says — and it likely always will be.
"We don't sit around and say: 'What would Steve do?' He told us not to do that," Cook said on Wednesday at Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference in Los Angeles. "But the reality was he was the best teacher I ever had, by far. Those teachings live on, not just in me, in a whole bunch of people who are [at Apple]."
One example of Jobs' enduring influence at Apple: Cook said he's maintained the late co-founder's long-lasting tradition of 9 a.m. Monday meetings for Apple's top executives to discuss the company's biggest issues.
"In many ways, it's still run the way Steve set it up," Cook said, also citing the Apple's continuing practice of only having one profit and loss statement, as opposed to breaking the company into separate business units for each group of products.
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That might be the case as long as Cook remains CEO. During a 2017 speech at the University of Glasgow, Cook said Jobs was the person who had the biggest influence on his life "by far" and that Jobs' philosophy "will be at Apple 100 years from now."
"Steve's DNA will always be the core of Apple," Cook said at the time. "Steve is deeply embedded in the company."
'If you didn't debate him, he would mow you down'
That's not to say Cook and Jobs never disagreed. On Wednesday, the current Apple CEO pointed out that debating Jobs was often the only way to ensure your voice was heard.
"There was always debate. I know there was folklore that you didn't debate him, but that's not true," Cook said. "In fact, if you didn't debate him, he would kind of mow you down. And he just did not work well with those kinds of folks that would not feel comfortable debating and pushing back."
One such debate was over Apple's sales strategy for the iPhone when it debuted in 2007, Cook said. Jobs argued for Apple getting a share of smartphone carriers' monthly revenue. Cook, Apple's chief operating officer at the time, wanted a subsidy model where carriers would pay Apple part of the iPhone cost upfront and then make that money back from customers' monthly subscription fees.
"His way was more creative and more different. My way would have scaled faster, at least I felt strongly," Cook said. Apple went with Jobs' model initially before switching to Cook's idea, which is credited with fueling the iPhone's massive growth.
Jobs' penchant for creative approaches was standard practice at Apple: When prompted to describe Jobs using just one word, Cook chose "curious."
During the same panel, philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs shared a little-known insight into her late-husband's curiosity, saying that Jobs called multiple people — including business leaders from industries beyond tech — to ask them what trends they were seeing and what was on their minds.
"He had a list of people he called, and he just would ask them what's going on," Powell Jobs said, adding: "He would just pick people's brains constantly, which was really interesting. I think it's not a widely spoken-about trait of his."
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