Woz on Tim Cook's first 5 years as Apple CEO

It's been five years since Cook took over from the late Steve Jobs, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak couldn't be happier about the new CEO's performance.

Rahil Bhagat
Based in Singapore, Rahil Bhagat is a freelance tech journalist with a passion for consumer tech and startups. He is also an avid gamer and does not believe that celery exists. He tweets into the ether via @rahilmb
Rahil Bhagat
3 min read
Justin Sullivan / Getty

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, the concern was that no one would be able to succeed him.

Apple's stocks dipped following his resignation, and his death led to anxiety among investors and some of Apple's customers. Oracle boss Larry Ellison predicted that, without Jobs, Apple "will not be nearly so successful."

Five years later, Jobs's successor Tim Cook has very much kept the ship afloat, helping the company to double its revenue from $108 billion in 2011 to $231 billion in 2015.

Among those impressed with Cook is Steve Wozniak, Apple's famous co-founder.

"I am very happy with the way Apple is going," he said at a media roundtable Wednesday in Singapore as part of Paypal FinTech Xchange 2016.

"When Steve Jobs died there was a tendency for a lot of people to say, 'Oh no, Apple has lost a key force and will be in decline and won't be innovative.' I said wait for a couple of years, don't be judgmental," Wozniak said.

A big positive for the Woz was how Cook and Apple as a whole handled the recent case of the FBI wanting access to an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino shooting case.

"I very much admire Tim Cook for standing up for the privacy of individuals because my whole life, Apple has meant to me a question of who is more important, the human or the technology," he said.

Tim Cook grabs the spotlight at a September 2015 event.

James Martin/CNET

The FBI had asked Apple to unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in order to find any potentially useful information. In particular, the FBI wanted Apple to design a software "backdoor" so that the authorities could access an iPhone even if it was locked. Apple refused on the grounds that such software would undermine the privacy of all its users.

"Apple has always favoured the human. We will build a lot of technology, a lot of software to make it work the human way rather than forcing humans to adapt to the tech...I agree with Tim Cook's stand on privacy very strongly," Woz said.

Wozniak then heaped praise on Cook's inclusive human resources policy, saying that Cook "has been very open about saying that everybody of different cultures and ethnicities, gender and sexual background are treated the same."

Technology companies from Google to Facebook have faced harsh criticism in recent years for their hiring policies which favour, the argument runs, white males. At Facebook for example, senior management is 3 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic and 27 percent female. For Apple to have reached relative parity when it comes to pay earns the company big points with Woz.

"We have the exact same pay now for women and men and I think we are the only company in technology that has met that goal. I admire him for that," he said.

Enlarge Image

Apple's latest iPhone varietals. The company has maintained the refresh cycle Steve Jobs started.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What about the tech?

But is Cook visionary enough to keep Apple above the rest?" wondered IDC research analyst Bryan Ma. "The fact that smartphones are slowing and new areas like Apple Watch hasn't been a runaway hit yet aren't making that job any easier for him."

Wozniak acknowledged the perception that Apple is not innovating as much. However, as far as he's concerned, the smartphone wars are very much a marathon rather than a sprint.

"Sales are still high. Apple's brand is based not on the features this month or this model," he said. "Apple's brand is based on a long legacy of people that are satisfied and happy with how the product works and that continues to be the case."

He added that Apple under Cook has never "made a product that is real awful and ugly."

As for the future of Apple, he would only say that "Apple is always working on projects in secret, so I am sure there is quite a bit going on."

There are rumors of course: Virtual reality, augmented reality, electric cars, artificial intelligence and robots are all things that Apple is reportedly looking at.