From iPhone X to that MacBook keyboard: Tim Cook’s strikes and misses out on

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This story belongs to WWDC 2021. All the most recent protection from Apple’s yearly designers conference.

The day prior to he was set to resolve countless designers, Apple CEO Tim Cook strolled into a spacious conference area at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. The space was empty other than for a couple of press reporters, some Apple officers and about a lots trainees who had actually won scholarships to go to the business’s yearly Worldwide Developers Conference.

Cook existed to shock the trainees — which he did. He worked the space, speaking to the blossoming designers and getting fast demonstrations of tasks they’d established utilizing Apple’s Swift coding tools. And he postured for selfies. So numerous selfies.

“He’s really cool,” stated Kirill Averianov, a 17-year-old designer who’s been composing iOS apps in his native Russia for 9 years. “It was quite an experience,” included Will Bishop, likewise 17, who had actually travelled from Australia. “I’ve only ever seen him on stage. They didn’t tell us he’d be here.”


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Cook is part of a cadre of executives with rock star status in the tech industry. But he’s not like Facebook’s hoodie-wearing Mark Zuckerberg or Tesla’s big-talking, big-tweeting Elon Musk. Instead of pushing grandiose or hyperdisruptive visions for the future, Cook is more grounded. He’s expanded Apple’s product lineup, moving into new categories like smartwatches and smart speakers, but he also shows restraint when it comes to jumping into markets. That long-rumored Apple car? No sight of it.

Perhaps nowhere is Cook more of a cult figure than at WWDC.

The annual confab, which ends Friday, is where Apple sells developers on the next generation of its software for iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Macs. While some of the news from the conference is pretty technical (like updates to its programming language), Apple’s also persuading consumers to wait for its upcoming devices. It’s saying, why buy the new Galaxy S10 or OnePlus 7 Pro, when Apple will introduce new gadgets — and give old devices a facelift with software updates — in a few months?

The man behind all of that is Cook. He took over as permanent CEO of Apple on Aug. 24, 2011, as Steve Jobs reached the end of his battle with pancreatic cancer. In Cook’s nearly eight years as CEO, Apple became the US’ first trillion-dollar company but only a few months later saw its value slide below that of rivals like Microsoft. It’s sold about 2 billion iPhones, but is facing pressure from a slowdown in the overall smartphone market. It’s released new products in new categories but hasn’t yet introduced anything as life-changing as the iPhone.  

This year at WWDC, Apple displayed Cook’s vision for the next era of Apple, one in which it isn’t all about the iPhone. And it comes at a time Apple’s moved on from being beholden to a figurehead.

“Apple is no longer a one-man band,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. “Apple is a different company than it used to be.”

Apple didn’t have anything to add to comments Cook made at WWDC and in an interview with CBS.

iPhone

By every measure, the iPhone has been a success. Cook wasn’t CEO when the first model hit the market in 2007, but he did oversee Apple’s push to expand the lineup, both in screen size and market availability.

In 2014, Apple introduced its first big-screen iPhones — the 6 and 6 Plus — after years of saying it didn’t want to boost the display dimensions much above the 4 inches of the iPhone 5S. In 2017, the company ditched the home button in favor of Face ID and a bigger, edge-to-edge screen in the iPhone X.

Cook struck a deal with China Mobile in late 2013 to bring the iPhone to the world’s largest carrier in one of the world’s largest markets. And he’s expanded into India and various other areas where Apple previously didn’t have a formal presence.

He’s also succeeded in getting us to spend more money on our iPhones (and other Apple devices) than before. When Apple launched its iPhone X, some wondered if the $999 price tag would scare away consumers. Instead, the iPhone X became Apple’s best-selling device up to the time.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook met with student developers the night before the company’s WWDC keynote.


James Martin/CNET

All of those moves during Cook’s tenure have helped Apple become one of the world’s richest companies.

But the iPhone is also one of Apple’s biggest challenges going forward. Fewer people are upgrading as frequently as before. iPhone sales fell for the first time ever in 2016, and in January of this year, Apple issued a rare warning — its first in nearly 17 years — that its fiscal first-quarter financial results wouldn’t be as strong as it had anticipated.

Apple, which has long generated about two-thirds of its revenue from the iPhone, has worked to diversify its operations beyond its popular phone, but there’s nothing that’s yet close to the size of the iPhone business.

At WWDC this week, though, Apple made several announcements that “spoke to a company moving forward,” as Stratechery’s Ben Thompson put it. That included the death of iTunes, the introduction of a new operating system specifically for iPads (called iPadOS) and the unveiling of an App Store on the Apple Watch.

“It is a statement from Apple that the non-iPhone parts of its business still matter,” Thompson wrote. “There is more urgency than there may have been even six months ago, and that is a great thing: better urgency than complacency.”

Services

Cook sees services as its next big opportunity. The area, which includes the App Store and Apple Music, has soared thanks to all of us who own the 1.4 billion active Apple devices out there.

In March, Apple hosted its first services-focused event, where it unveiled its first TV streaming service. Along with jumping into TV and music streaming, Apple introduced a gaming service called Apple Arcade and launched news subscriptions. It even plans to offer its own credit card, the Apple Card, this summer. Whether these services will be successful remains a question until they actually launch.

The biggest part of Apple’s services business remains the App Store, which has been facing scrutiny in over the last few months. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that iPhone owners can sue Apple for allegedly operating a monopoly through its App Store, which is the only way you can add apps to your iPhone and iPad. The day after Apple’s WWDC keynote, a group of developers sued the company, saying Apple’s practices hurt competition. Amazon, Netflix, Spotify and other heavyweights that aren’t involved in the suit have also criticized Apple’s App Store model.

There also has been an outcry from parental control app makers that Apple unfairly banned their software because their apps compete with Apple’s own software. Apple ultimately reversed its decision and reinstated the apps earlier this week. The company ahead of WWDC published an explainer page outlining its App Store policies.

To continue growing Apple’s services business, Cook also has to find a way to keep both regulators and developers happy. For the latter group, WWDC plays a key role.

Cook, talking with Norah O’Donnell on CBS News earlier this week said Apple is not a monopoly. “If you look at any kind of measure about is Apple a monopoly or not, I don’t think anybody reasonable is going to come to the conclusion that Apple’s a monopoly,” he said. “Our share is much more modest. We don’t have a dominant position in any market.”

(Disclosure: CBS News is owned by CBS, the parent company of CNET.)

Equality and the environment

Under Jobs, Apple largely avoided weighing in on social or cultural issues. But that’s changed with Cook as CEO. He came out as gay in October 2014, giving a boost to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement, and he’s pushed for more diversity at the company. Cook has been a proponent for more equality and has made Apple more charitable, eschewing Jobs’ belief that the company didn’t need to donate money because it paid enough in taxes.

Apple has also moved to make itself greener. Last year, it said that all of its facilities around the world now run on 100 percent clean energy. That includes the company’s retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries. It also has gotten some of its suppliers to vow to run on all renewable energy.

During a shareholder meeting in 2014, Cook told a conservative finance group that Apple doesn’t “consider the bloody [return on investment]” when it pertains to things like ease of access, ecological problems and employee security. “We want to leave the world better than we found it,” he stated.

Cook hasn’t been shy about politics and dealing with President Donald Trump. Last year, Cook required an end to the “inhumane” separation of immigrant households and has actually pushed the administration to discover a method to let Dreamers — individuals who were given the United States as kids — remain in the nation.

“I’m worried that we’re all losing the humanity of this, and getting lost in numbers and politics,” Cook stated to CBS. “These folks that we have in Apple, and I believe they’re largely representative of the total Dreamer population. We have 300-plus. They are every bit of as a US citizen as I am. And I just can’t conceive why anyone would spend 30 seconds in thinking they’re not.”

Privacy and security

One of the most significant efforts by Cook has actually been Apple’s focus on personal privacy and security. The business earns money from offering hardware and from services, not from offering user information for things like targeted marketing. Cook has actually promised time and once again to preserve consumer personal privacy for functions such as the business’s mobile payments service, Apple Pay. The business has actually been placing itself as the counter to Facebook and Google, which have actually dealt with examination over their information collection practices.

“We see privacy as a fundamental human right,” Cook informed CBS News. “And we’re very worried that the place that we’re all in right now is a place that has dire consequences.”

At its WWDC keynote on Monday, Apple revealed brand-new defenses to keep your information for your eyes just. That consisted of brand-new limitations on area tracking and a “Sign in With Apple” tool that can be utilized to independently verify your login qualifications.

“The last few years, Apple spent a lot of time and energy doing things to earn the trust of their customers and be seen as a company who is on a mission to protect their privacy not just from Apple but from others as well,” Creative Strategies expert Ben Bajarin stated.

Apple Watch and AirPods

It took just 2 years for the Apple Watch to end up being the very popular watch worldwide.

At WWDC this year, Apple stated the Apple Watch is getting its own App Store, rather breaking from the Bluetooth tether of the primary iPhone app. It’s one action better to ending up being a really independent gadget.

Then there are AirPods. The white, cordless earbuds, which begin at $159, ended up being a meme and a runaway hit after they introduced in late 2016.

“When walking in New York, I couldn’t see anybody not wearing AirPods,” Milanesi stated. “They have become the old white headset with a wire. They transcend gender and status and everything.”

Siri and expert system

Apple purchased Siri innovation in early 2010 and introduced the service on the iPhone FOUR in October 2011, at the start of Cook’s period as CEO. By just holding down the “Home” button on the iPhone or stating “Hey Siri,” users might provide voice commands to do things such as check the weather condition, set alarms, launch apps and browse the Web.

Apple was the very first to present a digital voice assistant, however it was sluggish to profit from that lead. While Apple has actually upgraded Siri throughout the years, it’s usually seen to be not as valuable or smart as digital assistants from competitors like Amazon and Google. That might be due to the fact that Apple at first saw Siri as a function, not as a platform that might be accessed by third-party designers and work on a plethora of gadgets.

“One area Apple has done poorly under Tim Cook’s watch is in AI,” Techsponential expert Avi Greengart stated.

At WWDC this year, Apple revealed some enhancements to Siri. For one, Apple’s brand-new Neural Text to Speech will utilize a brand-new software-based method to make Siri noise more natural, especially while checking out long sentences. Siri likewise will be more proactive with recommendations, and Siri Shortcuts has actually ended up being more conversational and simple to utilize.

Smart house tech

Similar to Siri, Apple made its relocation into the wise house early with HomeSet however let Amazon and Google exceed it.

Apple initially spoke about HomeSet at its designer conference in 2014. The function enables designers to incorporate controls for door locking, light dimming, and other house automation gizmos and functions in iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Apple registered numerous preliminary HomeSet partners, consisting of thermostat maker Honeywell, lightbulb maker Phillips and wise lock-maker August. But HomeSet has actually been slower to remove than initially expected, and Google and Amazon wound up purchasing a few of the most significant wise house gadget makers. Then the Apple-made gadget many individuals anticipated to be the business’s meal into the wise house — HomePod — had a hard time.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is among the most identifiable chiefs in tech. 


James Martin/CNET

Apple introduced the $350 gadget in January 2018, placed as a music experience instead of a smart-home center.

HomePod has actually mainly been thought about a flop. Last year, the gadget comprised just 6 percent of the United States wise speaker market, according to a research study by Consumer Intelligence Research partners. CNET editor Megan Wollerton, in her evaluation of the HomePod, stated that “Siri and HomeKit lack the polish and device compatibility of Alexa and Google Assistant.”

While Apple hasn’t launched a brand-new variation or HomePod — or a more affordable design — the business has actually made some HomePod enhancements because its launch, and it likewise upgraded the wise speaker’s abilities at WWDC. A hand-off function lets users move calls, podcasts and music from their iPhone to their HomePod by bringing their phone near it. And HomePod now has multiuser assistance, acknowledging who is speaking and reacting with tailored suggestions for music, messages, tips and more. 

Apple likewise revealed brand-new HomeSet includes at WWDC. That consisted of HomeSet Secure Video for security electronic cameras. Video recorded by an electronic camera is evaluated in your area on the resident iPad, HomePod or AppleTELEVISION and after that encrypted and send out to iCloud where nobody (not even Apple) can see it. And brand-new HomeKit-enabled routers from business like Linksys and Eero will instantly firewall software off each of your wise house devices to secure them even if your network is jeopardized.

Forgetting creatives

Power users, like graphic designers, have actually long been a few of Apple’s most devoted clients. But recently, they have actually mainly felt disregarded. While Apple had actually upgraded its laptop computers and iMac computer systems throughout the years, its real workhorse, the Mac Pro, had not seen huge modifications because 2013.

Even though Apple was sluggish to upgrade the Mac Pro, it had actually been listening to user feedback and even established a “pro workflow team” to find out more about how users are utilizing their computer systems. Some of the employee provided demonstrations at WWDC.

WWDC likewise is where we lastly got to see a brand-new Mac Pro with a style that some compared to a cheese grater. The $5,999 entry-level setup includes an eight-core Xeon processor, 32GB of RAM, a Radeon Pro 580X graphics card and a 256GB SSD, and will begin delivering in the fall. The accompanying brand-new 6K Pro Display XDR, the very first brand-new display from Apple because 2016, costs an extra $5,000 for the display screen and $1,000 for its stand.

“The pro area is very important to us,” Cook stated at an investor conference in 2018.

Sticking with a sticky keyboard

It’s not simply the Mac Pro that’s been disregarded. Apple’s other computer systems have actually taken years prior to seeing considerable updates. One of the modifications the business made throughout its computer system revamp in 2015 — a brand-new butterfly switch keyboard style — has actually turned into one of its most-criticized developments.

“Tim Cook is an excellent operational CEO who looks at the growth opportunities … and doubles down on them,” Bajarin stated. “Other products weren’t as high a priority or wouldn’t get as much attention as they’d get with more a product-centric type of CEO. I’d throw the Mac into that.”

The redesign belonged to an effort to make laptop computers thinner and lighter than in the past. The butterfly switch changed the conventional “scissor” system listed below each secret and was suggested to be more steady, responsive and comfy.

But nearly instantly, users grumbled about the feel of the brand-new keyboards and stated they might be quickly harmed by specks of dust. In reaction, Apple a year ago stated it would change “a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models” whose letters or characters duplicated all of a sudden, whose letters or characters didn’t appear, or whose secrets felt “sticky” or didn’t react regularly.

Last month, Apple extended its MacBook keyboard replacement program to all Macs with the butterfly switch and accelerated the repair work procedure. It likewise altered the product utilized in its keyboards in hopes it would avoid the problems — however it didn’t presume regarding revamping the style completely.

Cook’s most significant difficulties are most likely ahead of him. He will need to handle the downturn in iPhone sales and regulative examination over Apple’s App Store — that makes up the most significant piece of its growing services service. Apple likewise might be affected by the United States trade war with China, the area where Apple’s gadgets are constructed. And a downturn in China has actually injured Apple’s iPhone sales.

Apple likewise is dealing with an altering tech market. Companies like Samsung and Huawei are try out collapsible display screens and brand-new mobile phone innovation, and almost every significant handset maker — other than for Apple — will have a 5G phone this year. Because of Apple’s two-year fight with 5G chipmaker Qualcomm, it will not have a 5G iPhone till 2020, at finest.

Apple likewise might be dealing with a few of its most significant chances. It’s broadening into healthcare and has actually hardly begun with increased truth. Apple likewise has actually been restoring the iPad (sales have actually been growing in current quarters after succumbing to years) and making it into more of a work maker, while at the exact same time bringing its gadgets even better together. Project Catalyst will let designers bring iOS apps to the Mac, and Sidecar, revealed at WWDC, lets individuals utilize an iPads as a 2nd display screen for a Mac.

Navigating through all of that will be Cook’s difficulty. But in the meantime, at WWDC, he can concentrate on what his designer neighborhood — especially that youngest generation of developers — can achieve with Apple’s tools.

“Your dreams and your passion and dedication to fulfill those dreams comes across so clearly in the apps you create,” Cook stated as he started Apple’s WWDC keynote on Monday. “You make the world a better place, and that is why we’re here this morning.”

CNET’s Connie Guglielmo added to this report.

The story initially released at 5 a.m. PT. 

Update, 6: 50 a.m. PT: With extra background.

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