Tim Cook: I convinced myself Steve Jobs 'would bounce'

In a long interview with The Washington Post, Apple's CEO opens up about succeeding Jobs, the company's iPhone-dependency and who he turns to for advice.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
3 min read

Apple's Tim Cook tells The Washington Post about the "lonely" job of CEO.

The Washingont Post/Screenshot by CNET

For those of you who hold onto every word Tim Cook says, The Washington Post has about 10,000 to offer.

Apple's CEO sat down with the Post for what it termed two "sprawling and highly self-reflective interviews" published Saturday that hit on topics ranging from losing and succeeding the late Steve Jobs, the company's recent fight with the FBI and who he turns to for advice.

The Post prefaces the interview with a nice summary of what it covers. But we've also put together a few highlights:

Mistakes: After admitting to making mistakes with Apple Maps and initially hiring the wrong person to head up its retail division, Cook said his job is lonely.

"The adage that it's lonely -- the CEO job is lonely -- is accurate in a lot of ways. I'm not looking for any sympathy. You have to recognize that you have blind spots," he said. "We all do. Blind spots move, and you want to not just have really bright people around you, but people who will push on you and people to bring out the best in you."

Smartphone saturation: Cook said the idea that much of Apple's business is tied up in the iPhone and a smartphone industry that's cooling off is "actually a privilege, not a problem."

"Think about this: What other products do you know where the ratio of people to the product, for a consumer electronics product, will be one-to-one over the long haul? I don't think there is another one," he said.

Cook added that artificial intelligence will be key.

"AI will make this product even more essential to you. It will become even a better assistant than it is today. So where you probably aren't leaving home without it today -- you're really going to be connected to it in the future," he said. "That level of performance is going to skyrocket. And there is nothing that's going to replace it in the short term or in the intermediate term either."

The worst day ever: Cook took the CEO reins from Jobs five years ago, on August 24, 2011, six weeks before Jobs' death. Cook said he thought Jobs would be around for much longer.

"[The day he died] was sort of the worst day ever. I just -- I had really convinced myself. I know this sounds probably bizarre at this point, but I had convinced myself that he would bounce, because he always did," he said.

Asking for advice: For help on how to face Congress during the 2013 probe of Apple's practices, Cook said he turned to former President Bill Clinton and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. On returning cash to shareholders, he called up Warren Buffet. As for coming out as gay, "I talked to Anderson Cooper at length -- multiple times. Because I thought that the way that he handled his announcement was really classy," he said.

Besides marking Cook's five-year CEO anniversary, the interview comes at a relatively slow time for Apple. Despite concerns that people have become blasé about iPhones, in July it reported better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter earnings, revenue and iPhone and iPad sales. In September, it's expected to release a new iPhone, but the latest rumors point to minor updates, with Apple saving its big design alterations for its 10th anniversary iPhone next year.

Watch this: We made a Steve Jobs supercut for Apple's 40th birthday