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Apple’s Tim Cook assures employees that it is committed to the Mac and that ‘great desktops’ are coming


One of the memes to come out of the somewhat contentious rollout of the MacBook Pro is that Apple has given up on the desktop Mac. Given the slower upgrade cycle of desktops and how well my Retina 5K iMac is holding up it took me a while to pay attention to what was going on there until it had reached a fever pitch.

The consensus was that Apple is no longer interested in keeping up its desktop business because the portable market was eating it alive.

In a posting to an employee message board, CEO Tim Cook seems intent on putting that particular branch of discussion to bed.

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops,” Cook wrote. “If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.”

Cook cites the far better performance of desktop computers including screen sizes, memory, storage, and more variety in I/O (ha) as a reason that they are “really important, and in some cases critical, to people.”

So no matter how you feel about the state of the Mac at the moment, you have new machines to look forward to. No mention of whether that meant iMac or Mac Pro or both, but at the very least it’s encouraging to those of us who couldn’t live without a desktop computer.

Also posted to the message board was a section on what Cook thinks is Apple’s greatest differentiating factor that I found particularly interesting. Though the Mac statements may be the news hook here, hence the headline, there are some interesting things in this section to pull apart as well.

He’s responding to the following question: What do you consider to be Apple’s biggest differentiator, and what can employees do to foster and advance those efforts?

He first says that the people and culture are the foundation, which in itself is really not that revelatory, every tech CEO says that.

Our greatest differentiator is our culture and our people. They are the foundation by which everything else comes about. Without great people and a great environment that people can live in, we wouldn’t have intellectual property. We wouldn’t have the best products. We wouldn’t have the inventions or features I mentioned earlier,” Cook responds.

“I think it’s that “change the world” attitude and boldness that’s deeply embedded in our culture, that “good isn’t good enough.” All of this is the fuel for everything else that we do.”

This kind of thinking in its culture is often cited by Apple executives and ex-employees as a truism. Apple pushes. That doesn’t always (ever) result in perfection but it does result in truly impressive results from time to time like the recent AirPods, which are an incredible weaving together of Apple’s hardware and software teams to produce something that works so much better than what came before it’s laughable.

Cook also re-emphasizes this commonly stated stance in the posting. “From a strategic point of view, we also focus on things where software, hardware and services all come together and bring out the magic that only Apple can,” he says. “That’s our secret sauce. It shows up in a lot of different places, and it’s something that we look for in new employees.”

But what comes after is probably the most interesting. He says this:

You can rarely see precisely where you want to go from the beginning. In retrospect, it’s always written like that. But it’s rarely like that. The fantastic thing about Apple employees is they get excited about something, and they want to know how it works. What it will do. What its capabilities are. If they want to know about something in an entirely different industry, they start pulling the string and see where it takes them. They’re focused more on the journey, which enables so many great things to happen. 

Just in the past couple years, pulling that string on Watch and fitness led to ResearchKit, and ResearchKit led to CareKit. We’ve got a ton of things on our roadmap that I can’t talk about, but that I’m incredibly excited about, that are the result of pulling that string and not being bound by the box that so many people in life get bound by. 

No company on the planet is willing to go as far as Apple to find out whether there is a there, there. The Apple Watch launched with so many features because Apple was willing to let it define its own role as determined by customers. It was probably the world’s most expensive focus group. And it managed to do that while still providing a genuinely useful tool right out of the gate.

His conclusion drives that point home.

With so many things that we’ve done, we don’t do it because there’s an return on investment. We don’t do it because we know exactly how we’re going to use it. We do it because it’s clear it’s interesting and it might lead somewhere. A lot of the time it doesn’t, but many times it leads us somewhere where we had no idea in the beginning. 

I think this is an often overlooked cultural strength at Apple. A willingness to devote extra-ordinary resources, time and attention to a problem or piece of technical research because there is a feeling that it may lead somewhere — eventually. All too often technology companies are obsessed with the goal. The end result. And everything is bent into service of achieving that goal.

This methodology is not ineffective, but it is short-sighted. You may be able to get the result that you wanted by driving hard toward that goal, but you’re never going to recognize the better, potentially more rewarding result you didn’t expect. You’ll never see it because any branch that leads you to such a potentiality would have gotten killed off as a distraction or failure before it had time to bear fruit.

Anyway, this isn’t a philosophical screed, it’s internal PR, but it rings true with the company’s public actions and what I know of its internal culture. Interesting stuff.

In the same Apple Web posting, Cook also talked about why he chose to go to the meting with President-elect Trump last week, and you can read about that here.

The full postings are below:

We had a big MacBook Pro launch in October and a powerful upgrade to the MacBook back in the spring. Are Mac desktops strategic for us?

The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop — the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.

The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world. 

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

What do you consider to be Apple’s biggest differentiator, and what can employees do to foster and advance those efforts? 

Our greatest differentiator is our culture and our people. They are the foundation by which everything else comes about. Without great people and a great environment that people can live in, we wouldn’t have intellectual property. We wouldn’t have the best products. We wouldn’t have the inventions or features I mentioned earlier. 

I think it’s that “change the world” attitude and boldness that’s deeply embedded in our culture, that “good isn’t good enough.” All of this is the fuel for everything else that we do. 

From a strategic point of view, we also focus on things where software, hardware and services all come together and bring out the magic that only Apple can. That’s our secret sauce. It shows up in a lot of different places, and it’s something that we look for in new employees. 

You can rarely see precisely where you want to go from the beginning. In retrospect, it’s always written like that. But it’s rarely like that. The fantastic thing about Apple employees is they get excited about something, and they want to know how it works. What it will do. What its capabilities are. If they want to know about something in an entirely different industry, they start pulling the string and see where it takes them. They’re focused more on the journey, which enables so many great things to happen. 

Just in the past couple years, pulling that string on Watch and fitness led to ResearchKit, and ResearchKit led to CareKit. We’ve got a ton of things on our roadmap that I can’t talk about, but that I’m incredibly excited about, that are the result of pulling that string and not being bound by the box that so many people in life get bound by. 

With so many things that we’ve done, we don’t do it because there’s an return on investment. We don’t do it because we know exactly how we’re going to use it. We do it because it’s clear it’s interesting and it might lead somewhere. A lot of the time it doesn’t, but many times it leads us somewhere where we had no idea in the beginning. 


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