Data Sheet—Talking With Tim Cook About Apple as a Force for Good

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe,” Steve Jobs once famously said. “Otherwise why else even be here?” If ever a company was self-consciously focused on making an impact on the world—changing the world, in the argot of the annual list FORTUNE has just published—it is Apple.

And yet, for Jobs the dent that he intended for Apple to make in the universe revolved almost totally around creating new products that would change people’s lives. Those products would be gorgeous and useful and fun and surprising, but rarely good in and of themselves. Despite its hippie-dippie veneer and earnest marketing, Apple under Jobs was a ruthlessly efficient money maker that largely left social sloganeering to others.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive who joined the company in the middle of his career and has assumed the zealousness of a convert, is no less commercially minded than Jobs. And when asked to explain how Apple changes the world he answers immediately with two words one can imagine Jobs saying too: “Our products.” (The world is waiting for a few of these tomorrow.)

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But Apple under Cook is a company transformed in terms of how it projects onto the world its social awareness and its place in the corporate community. I first profiled Cook in a 2008 magazine cover story entitled “The Genius Behind Steve.” At the end of August I sat down with Cook at Apple’s 1 Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., to discuss Apple’s view of itself as a force for good.

Some of what Cook said is surprising, including why he personally rejected the idea of establishing a corporate foundation and that Apple’s healthcare initiatives—which sprang from apps designed for the Apple Watch—have no discernible model for making money and may never. He also shared that Jobs was so passionate about improving education with Apple’s wares that he spent $10 million to develop one textbook for the iPad as a hoped-for proof of concept.

Cook also paints a picture of Apple’s philanthropic and otherwise commercially beneficent activities as of a piece with the company’s ethos on product development: it tries to do relatively few things so as to better focus on them. Apple’s biggest priorities include renewable energy (it runs its own facilities overwhelmingly on them), education (it is focused on teaching coding from kindergarten through community college), and healthcare (including the $130 million it has raised for HIV/AIDS through its PRODUCT (RED) partnership with the Global Fund).

Ultimately, Cook sees Apple’s greatest societal contribution coming through the 2 million U.S. jobs it believes it creates through its “app economy” and the “many millions” more in the rest of the world. For Apple, everything comes back to its products, about a billion of which are denting the universe at this very moment.


With the massive Equifax hack and the impact of Hurricane Irma in Florida, it's a downer of a day in techland. A few tried to find a silver lining–hey, we can use apps to help evacuate, Florida Gov. Rick Scott noted–but mostly it's bad news everywhere you turn:

Ending the party. China moved to further crackdown on bitcoin and its offshoots with a plan to ban domestic exchanges from trading in digital currencies, the Wall Street Journal reported. Authorities were concerned about excessive speculation and use of bitcoin to bet again the value of the yuan. "Too much disorder was naturally a basic reason” one source told the paper. The price of bitcoin has tumbled to around $4,170 from a high of close to $4,700 last Thursday.

Taxing the party. The European Union is considering a plan to tax multinationals like Google and Facebook based on the amount of revenue, not profit, that they generate in each country. The initiative is designed to counter the avoidance schemes that the tech giants use to minimize their tax bills in Europe, the Financial Times reported.

Pulling the product. Best Buy will stop selling cybersecurity software from Kaspersky Lab amid concerns about connections to the Russian government. Kaspersky has denied any links to Vladimir Putin's government.

Pulling the product, part II. Intel is killing its line of super-fast, short range wireless products that rely on the WiGig standard, Anandtech reported. Used in just a few laptops, like Lenovo's Thinkpad, WiGig will be re-conceived as a way to connect virtual reality headsets to other devices.

Spoiling the surprise. A couple more leaks from Apple software shed light on tomorrow's announcements. Developer Steven Troughton-Smith found mentions of an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X in early iOS 11 code, likely giving away the names of the new models. Meanwhile, the web site 9to5Mac found references to cellular connectivity for the next Apple watch, confirming earlier rumors.

Spoiling the art. The head of Amazon's in-house studio says the e-commerce giant is going to aim higher to produce the kind of global hits that could rival HBO's Game of Thrones. In an interview with Variety, Roy Price said the goal is "big shows that can make the biggest difference around the world." The new emphasis led the studio to cancel plans for a second season of Z: The Beginning of Everything, which starred Christina Ricci as Zelda Fitzgerald.


Sure, you can stay informed about technology and business via the blurbs and links in Data Sheet. But there's deeper knowledge to be had as well. Laura Entis, associate editor at Fortune, has a list of 10 books coming out this fall that will feed your brain.

In addition to Reset, venture capitalist Ellen Pao's tale of sexism and discrimination in Silicon Vally, other interesting tomes that made the list include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's memoir Hit Refresh and A World of Three Zeros by Muhammad Yunus, one of the pioneers of using microcredit in developing markets.


This Startup Offers a Free Way to Protect Corporate Software By Barb Darrow

How Equifax Turned Its Massive Hack Into an Even Worse ‘Dumpster Fire’ by David Z. Morris

Airbnb Offers Free Homes to Hurricane Irma Evacuees by Lucinda Shen

How ESPN Is Getting Better Camera Shots at the U.S. Open by Barb Darrow

Equifax Data Breach: What to Do If You’ve Been Hacked by Jeff John Roberts

Why Wall Street Is Even More Excited About the iPhone 8 Than You Are by Aaron Pressman

Here’s How the Red Cross Is Using Drones for Disaster Relief by Chris Morris

Russell Wilson’s New Social Media Startup Is for Celebrities and Super-Fans by Tom Huddleston, Jr.


Roman history buffs rejoice. Archeologists have made a rare find of well-preserved 2,000-year-old artifacts in a buried Roman cavalry barracks near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland in England. The finds include two swords in almost perfect condition, lances, arrowheads and a stash of ordinary everyday items like combs, hairpins and shower clogs. Yes, even the Roman legions needed to ward off athlete's foot in the shower, it seems.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.
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