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This Apple Exec Opens Up About the Differences Between Cook and Jobs

August 8, 2016, 6:26 PM UTC
Image #: 15110121 epa02879831 A picture dated 07 August 2007 shows Apple CEO Steve Jobs (R) and Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook (L) standing together at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, USA. Apple Inc co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs on 24 August 2011 resigned as chief executive of the leading computer and consumer electronics company in a letter to the firmës board of directors. The company named Tim Cook to succeed him as CEO. EPA/MONICA M. DAVEY /LANDOV
Photograph by Monica M. Davey — EPA/Landov

In a wide-ranging interview with Fast Company, Apple’s top brass talked about everything from Steve Jobs to Apple Maps. But it was the comparison between the late Apple co-founder and chief executive and its current CEO that stood out.

Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services Eddy Cue told the magazine that under Tim Cook’s leadership, he’s able to “twitch less,” referring to the hard-nosed style employed by Steve Jobs. Though Cue admitted he was joking, he did note an important difference between Jobs, who co-founded Apple (AAPL) and led the company into its latest boom period before his death in 2011 after a long battle with cancer, and Cook.

“Steve was in your face, screaming, and Tim is more quiet, more cerebral in his approach,” said Cue. “When you disappoint Tim, even though he isn’t screaming at you, you get the same feeling. I never wanted to disappoint Steve, and I never want to disappoint Tim. [Other than them,] I have that feeling with, like, my dad.”

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Cue’s comments confirm what many have believed about Apple and its top executives for a long time. Indeed, Jobs biographies are filled with accounts of him screaming at his employees, imploring them to do better, and often firing them for little cause. While Cook is publicly quieter and calmer and reports have said that he acts similarly in-house, never before has an Apple executive been as candid about their leaders’ differences than Cue.

Perhaps the best way to understand differences, though, is how chief executives respond in the face of trouble. While Jobs was often viewed as an aggressive executive, Cook has taken a different tack by being more understanding and thoughtful, some say. In the Fast Company interview, Cue, along with Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said Cook’s tack was on full display when Apple unveiled Maps in 2012.

Maps was supposed to be Apple’s answer to the popular (and reliable) Google Maps. Instead, it was a mess, with missing roads, points of interest in the wrong location, and a slew of other issues. Cook was forced to publicly apologize for the gaffe and point users to third-party apps, including the Google Maps app that Apple Maps was supposed to replace.

Cue said in his interview that the company felt “embarrassed” by the app. However, the executive team, including Cook, decided to either discontinue the app or improve it. According to Cue, after the executives ultimately decided to move forward, Cook led the charge, realigning how Apple develops software to streamline efforts and limit the chances of another mistake. Most importantly, he realized that Apple’s notorious secrecy—something Jobs had honed while chief executive—isn’t the best for software development.

“To all of us living in Cupertino, the maps for here were pretty darn good. Right? So [the problem] wasn’t obvious to us,” Cue said about early Apple Maps testing. “We were never able to take it out to a large number of users to get that feedback. Now we do.”

Apple is now able to try out its software on so many users by offering something it had never done until 2014: allowing the public to test beta versions of its mobile and desktop operating systems. At its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple announced that it would make available both iOS 10 and macOS Sierra to the public for testing. The company launched the betas last month in a strategy to find issues in the operating systems that could be addressed before the final software releases launch this in the fall.

“The reason you as a customer are going to be able to test iOS,” Cue said, “is because of Maps.”

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Despite that, Cue wanted to make it clear that Apple hasn’t changed all that dramatically since Cook took over. In fact, Cue said that Apple continues to innovate in much the same way it did years ago when Jobs was in charge.

“The world thinks we delivered [a breakthrough] every year while Steve was here,” Cue told Fast Company. “Those products were developed over a long period of time.”