Apple's CEO Tim Cook is highly enthusiastic about AR and VR, a new profile reveals, a far cry from calling the technology a "flop" in his previous comments.
Cook has often been the subject of interviews from a wide variety of publications. As the cover star of GQ's Global Creativity Awards 2023 issue, he discusses how he works and his legacy at Apple, but also revealing more about himself.
In his conversations, he is viewed as channeling the "slightly wide-eyed" kid from Alabama who's surprised at becoming the world's most powerful businessman.
"I've never been described as normal," Cook tells the publication. "I always hate the word normal in a lot of ways, because what some people use to describe normal equals straight. Some people would use that word in that kind of way. I don't know— I've been described as a lot of things, but probably normal is not among those."
As CEO, Cook is pointed out as being highly approachable, beyond holding eye contact and using first names in conversations. On campus, it's highlighted that no-one scatters when he enters a public space and sits down, aside from a mild ebb.
Cook reasons "I think generally people feel comfortable approaching me" when hearing the observation.
AR, VR, and headsets
A large chunk of the profile was dedicated to future technologies, such as Apple's often-rumored AR and VR headset, and Cook had a lot to say on the topic, though stopped short on confirming the headset existed.
"If you think about the technology itself with augmented reality, just to take one side of the AR/VR piece, the idea that you could overlay the physical world with things from the digital world could greatly enhance people's communication, people's connection," said Cook. "It could empower people to achieve things they couldn't achieve before."
He continued "We might be able to collaborate on something much easier if we were sitting here brainstorming about it and all of a sudden we could pull up something digitally and both see it and begin to collaborate on it and create with it. And so it's the idea that there is this environment that may be even better than just the real world— to overlay the virtual world on top of it might be an even better world."
"And so this is exciting. If it could accelerate creativity, if it could just help you do things that you do all day long and you didn't really think about doing them in a different way."
When referring to earlier Cook comments that he was skeptical about AR and VR, and admitting "We always thought it would flop," Cook defends himself by referring to Steve Jobs.
"My thinking always evolves. Steve taught me well: never to get married to your convictions of yesterday. To always, if presented with something new that says you were wrong, admit it and go forward instead of continuing to hunker down and say why you're right."
Apple Park and the Jobs takeover
On discussing Apple Park itself, Cook talks about how there is an under-appreciation in the value of workplaces. "It does lead the architecture to be these rectangular blocks on a campus."
Cook continued "You know, we could all architect those fairly easily. You have to think at a deeper level to come up with something that promotes collaboration and openness and serenity."
When reaching the inevitable discussion about Steve Jobs, Cook is reportedly more comfortable of the public-facing elements of the job that Jobs thrived within.
"I clearly had to grow into it," Cook explains. "I thought that the public focus on Apple was because of Steve. And so that was my mentality taking over the CEO role, particularly without him, after his death, I thought the fixation and so forth would go. And it didn't."
For the immediate time after Jobs passed, Cook felt "totally gutted, totally empty."
"I knew I couldn't be Steve. I don't think anybody could be Steve," Cook added. "I think he was a once-in-a-hundred-years kind of individual, an original by any stretch of the imagination. And so what I had to do was to be the best version of myself."
In defending against characterizations that he was a spreadsheet guy, Cook insisted that Jobs saw the creativity at work. "One of the things I loved about him was he didn't expect innovation out of just one group in the company or creativity out of one group, he expected it everywhere in the company," Cook said.
This "everywhere" included in operations, Cook's field of expertise.
"When we were running operations, we tried to be innovative in operations and creative in operations, just like we were creative elsewhere," Cook clarified. "We fundamentally had to be in order to build the products that we were designing."
"With my background, I am used to people being critical in some ways. I'm used to the attack," Cook mentions, given his lofty position in the company. "I try very hard not to take things personal that I don't think are meant to be personal. Talking heads critiquing— this kind of stuff kind of goes through me. It has to, or I wouldn't be able to function."
To combat these complaints, Cook uses various techniques to relax, such as looking out the glass windows of the cafe. "I always think about hiking and the things that really settle my mind when I'm here."
Cook said he started cycling and hiking to further his love of the outdoors, then when told about the hiking in California, that became "almost a sin not to go out and enjoy it." Nature is a "palate cleanser for the mind" for Cook, and it's "better than any other thing you can possibly do!"