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'Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level' Author AMA With Leander Kahney

WildCowboy

Administrator/Editor
Original poster
Staff member
Jan 20, 2005
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Hello everyone! Earlier today, we published an article on Leander Kahney's upcoming biography of Tim Cook, which debuts next week. Leander has graciously agreed to participate in an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) here in our forums, where he's willing to talk about Cook and the process of writing the book.

tim_cook_kahney_cover_forums.jpg


This is the first time we've done something like this, so we're interested to see how it goes. It should go without saying that we expect participation in this thread to be respectful and constructive, and we thank Leander for being willing to share some perspective on the topic. He'll be along momentarily to start answering your questions!
 
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LimitedThread

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Apr 9, 2019
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Hello Mr. Kahney, I’m looking forward to this book about Tim Cook. One of the notable things about Cook is his work ethic, it is widely reported how he wakes up at 3:45 AM and is in the gym shortly after. He is known to work long days as well.

I have heard his right hand man Jeff Williams is a lot like Tim Cook, I was curious if you knew if he woke up early like Tim Cook and if you knew anything about his day to day routine?
 
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leander

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
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San Francisco, CA
Hello Mr. Kahney, I’m looking forward to this book about Tim Cook. One of the notable things about Cook is his work ethic, it is widely reported how he wakes up at 3:45 AM and is in the gym shortly after. He is known to work long days as well.

I have heard his right hand man Jeff Williams is a lot like Tim Cook, I was curious if you knew if he woke up early like Tim Cook and if you knew anything about his day to day routine?

Your'e right about Tim Cook's routine -- he rises at about 3.30/3.45am -- but I'm afraid I don't know about Jeff Williams' habits.
 
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gerardodm

macrumors newbie
Jun 7, 2013
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0
Hi Mr. Kahney, thank you for the AMA.

What was your favorite anecdote with Tim while working on the book?
 
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leander

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
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San Francisco, CA
What is doing at that hour? Exercising I assume using the Apple Watch and Health Kit.

Yeah, exercising. Then he spends all weekend riding his bike and/or hiking.
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How many restrictions did Apple put on you regarding questions you could ask, or what you could publish?

None. Apple didn't put any restrictions on me.
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In public, Tim Cook seems extremely measured and deliberate; did you get the same impression about him personally?

He's much more relaxed in private. His colleagues say he's got a good sense of humor, is always laughing, and often pokes fun at himself.

You see bit of this when he's interacting with the public at things like product launches at Apple Stores. He's happy to take selfies with customers and you can see he's joking around a lot.
 
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Martius

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Jul 12, 2008
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Dear Mr. Kahney, I would like to ask if Tim spends any time reading forums like MacRumors? I don't mean everyday, but once in a while. Thank you!
 
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leander

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
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San Francisco, CA
Approximately how much time did you spent with him to be able to write your book?

None unfortunately. Apple declined to make him available for interviews. The company didn't want to make the book an official, "authorized" biography. But they did allow me to interview four of his executive colleagues -- Bruce Sewell, Deirdre O'Brien, Lisa Jackson and Greg Joswiak -- so it's semi-official, I guess.
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Dear Mr. Kahney, I would like to ask if Tim spends any time reading forums like MacRumors? I don't mean everyday, but once in a while. Thank you!

That I don't know, but I'd doubt he reads forum threads about himself. He'd have a hard time keeping up with all the stuff written about him in the mainstream press. But maybe he's a lurker!
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What time does Tim Cook go to bed?

Probably about 8PM, about an hour after he gets home from a 14-hour day at the office!
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Hi Leander, what was the most surprising thing you learned about Tim?

The most surprising stuff was the progressive stuff Cook is doing inside Apple as a company; how he's making Apple a better corporate citizen by making it greener, more inclusive and diverse, and less exploitative in its supply chain.

Steve Jobs appeared to be far more liberal. He was an ex hippy, had long hair, loved Bob Dylan, lived on a commune, etc -- but he didn't care much for Apple's environmental footprint or the conditions of workers in Foxconn's factories.

It was surprising to me that Cook -- who was born and raised in Alabama! -- is much more liberal than his predecessor.
 
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Oohara

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Jun 28, 2012
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Hi @leander thanks for doing this!

I've heard that Tim and Steve were good friends, did they meet at Apple or before that? Do you know more about their story as friends?

And given that Steve was quite a spiritually interested man, do you know if Tim also is?
 
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Mr_Brightside_@

macrumors 68040
Sep 23, 2005
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Toronto
Based on your research and personal opinion, what would you say is Tim's vision for Apple, both short- and long-term?
 
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leander

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
11
25
San Francisco, CA
None unfortunately. Apple declined to make him available for interviews. The company didn't want to make the book an official, "authorized" biography. But they did allow me to interview four of his executive colleagues -- Bruce Sewell, Deirdre O'Brien, Lisa Jackson and Greg Joswiak -- so it's semi-official, I guess.
[doublepost=1554834030][/doublepost]

That I don't know, but I'd doubt he reads forum threads about himself. He'd have a hard time keeping up with all the stuff written about him in the mainstream press. But maybe he's a lurker!
[doublepost=1554834092][/doublepost]

Probably about 8PM, about an hour after he gets home from a 14-hour day at the office!
[doublepost=1554834319][/doublepost]

The most surprising stuff was the progressive stuff Cook is doing inside Apple as a company; how he's making Apple a better corporate citizen by making it greener, more inclusive and diverse, and less exploitative in its supply chain.

Steve Jobs appeared to be far more liberal. He was an ex hippy, had long hair, loved Bob Dylan, lived on a commune, etc -- but he didn't care much for Apple's environmental footprint or the conditions of workers in Foxconn's factories.

It was surprising to me that Cook -- who was born and raised in Alabama! -- is much more liberal than his predecessor.


And I say surprising because it's pretty transformative. If you follow Apple, you got a sense of Cook's activism, but it wasn't until I dug in that I realized the full extent of it.

Take Apple's environmental initiatives, for example. Greenpeace gave Apple an 'F' grade when Jobs was in charge, but 7 years later Apple is running on 100% renewable energy and is working hard to transform its supply chain too (which will take about another 8 years, Lisa Jackson told me.)

I think Cook's work in the environment is really big and important, especially when the Trump admin is backpedaling like crazy on climate change.
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Hi @leander thanks for doing this!

I've heard that Tim and Steve were good friends, did they meet at Apple or before that? Do you know more about their story as friends?

And given that Steve was quite a spiritually interested man, do you know if Tim also is?

Their friendship started when Jobs recruited Cook to work for him on 98. But I'm not sure how close friends they were. Jobs kept his work colleagues at arms length. Jobs close friends were fellow billionaires like Larry Ellison.

As for spirituality, Cook has talked about his belief in God and his upbringing in the church. He's much more a traditional Christian, whereas Jobs was Buddhist.
 
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vDotN

macrumors newbie
Apr 9, 2019
1
1
Thank you Mr. Kahney for taking the time! I joined the forum after being a lurker forever just to participate.

My question is: How much of a "product" person is Tim, and how much vision does he seem to have for Apple's product line? And as a follow on, how much does he pay attention to press and public reaction and let it influence his vision and decisions?
 
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aroom

macrumors member
Nov 26, 2014
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hello,

It appears that Tim Cook is basically living at Apple office right? Do you know if he's playing the guitare at his office or does he have some hobbies other than being a the most productive CEO?
 
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vorkosigan1

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Jan 23, 2017
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7
What do you as Tim's responsibility, if any, for the problems with the post-2015 butterfly keyboards, and the long lag time on the Mac Pro? While Steve may have been sui generis, who is there in Apple who can provide any of the inspiration that Steve did? Does it seem to you that Tim is leaning too heavily on Jony, who in turn is optimizing superficial appeal over true usability--for instance, the increasing elimination of affordances, unrepairability, etc.?

I don't mean to sound harsh, but these seem like real issues to me.
 
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WildCowboy

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Jan 20, 2005
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As somebody who has now written biographies of both Ive and Cook, how do you see product-related decisions being made today? Cook has always been an operations guy and many have questioned whether he has product vision...obviously Jobs was a tough (maybe impossible) act to follow in that regard.

Does Ive have more influence over the direction of Apple's product pipeline now? With Cook apparently more of a consensus builder, it seems there may be more collaboration among the executive team when it comes to overall vision and direction, rather than Jobs laying all of that out single-handedly and leaving others to primarily execute rather than influence. Is that the impression you've gotten from your research and interviews?
 
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leander

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
11
25
San Francisco, CA
Based on your research and personal opinion, what would you say is Tim's vision for Apple, both short- and long-term?

Cook's vision is "enriching lives," a phrase he uses constantly, and for "leaving the world a better place than we found it."

Plus the six "core values" that Eric mentioned in his writeup of the book here on MacRumors: accessibility, education, environment, inclusion and diversity, privacy and security, and supplier responsibility.

So internally at Apple, he's pushing for things like education and privacy, while judging whether various initiatives improve lives or leave the world a better place.

I know this sounds like wishy washy ********, but look at his last keynote, where he rolled out News+ and the TV subscription service.

He made a big deal about how none of these services would track you or spy on you -- his commitment to privacy -- and I think it's actually a valuable and differentiating proposition. Everyone's sick of being tracked. Apple doesn't do this.

Apple used to be about simplicity -- it just works. These days Cook has added trust to the mix. I think that's an important addition.
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What do you as Tim's responsibility, if any, for the problems with the post-2015 butterfly keyboards, and the long lag time on the Mac Pro? While Steve may have been sui generis, who is there in Apple who can provide any of the inspiration that Steve did? Does it seem to you that Tim is leaning too heavily on Jony, who in turn is optimizing superficial appeal over true usability--for instance, the increasing elimination of affordances, unrepairability, etc.?

I don't mean to sound harsh, but these seem like real issues to me.

There's always been problems, and there always will be. There were tons of problems and screwups under Steve Jobs. The PowerMac Cube, for example, which nearly sunk the company, or the iPhone 4 'Antennaegate, 'which was far more serious and widespread than the MacBook keyboard issue. (Granted: Jobs did a masterful job of dealing with that, and made it a nonissue overnight, which Cook hasn't been able to do with the MBP).

Still, I see a lot of people citing current problems as reasons for Cook's abject failure, but there would still be problems, even if Jobs were still in charge.

The problems are a result of Apple trying to do new things. If Apple isn't experimenting and pushing the envelope, it wouldn't be the Apple we love.

Which other companies in the tech industry take such risks? Like removing the headphone jack. Remember when Jobs eliminated the floppy drive from the first iMac? people LOST THEIR MINDS!!! Everyone though the iMac was doomed.

Likewise, the lack of a headphone jack in a few years will be viewed the same way: no big deal. AirPods and wireless headphones are WAY BETTER than their wired predecessors, and Apple is right too much technology forward like this.

As for leaning too heavily on Jony, I think Jobs relied heavily on him too. Look at the successes -- AirPods are among the best thing Apple has ever done, and the Apple Watch is a massive sleeper hit that will only get better and more important with time. In fact, I think the Watch has the potential to be a really massive hit product, especially if they keep adding life-saving health features.

Sorry, got a bit off track here... that answer your question?
 
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mi7chy

macrumors 604
Oct 24, 2014
6,793
7,791
Why did you choose this photo for front cover over others? Trying to understand what the photo is portraying other than possibly anger.

Best success with your book.
 
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leander

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
11
25
San Francisco, CA
As somebody who has now written biographies of both Ive and Cook, how do you see product-related decisions being made today? Cook has always been an operations guy and many have questioned whether he has product vision...obviously Jobs was a tough (maybe impossible) act to follow in that regard.

Does Ive have more influence over the direction of Apple's product pipeline now? With Cook apparently more of a consensus builder, it seems there may be more collaboration among the executive team when it comes to overall vision and direction, rather than Jobs laying all of that out single-handedly and leaving others to primarily execute rather than influence. Is that the impression you've gotten from your research and interviews?


Yeah, you're absolutely right that Apple under Cook is more collaborative and less competitive than under Jobs.

Jobs liked to pit teams and executives against each other, and made them work in secret, which tended to silo projects. I heard stories that colleagues would often defy his edicts and collaborate secretly anyway, protecting Jobs from his own worst instincts.

Cook doesn't engage in product development the way Jobs did. Towards the end, Jobs used to spend almost every afternoon in the industrial design studio tinkering with new products, and Cook doesn't do that.

Will that hurt Apple? Does Jony Ive need a foil?

Maybe, but like I said earlier, look at AirPods and Apple Watch: they're among the best things Apple has ever done, and neither had any input from Steve Jobs. So on the face of things, I'd say the magic is still there.
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Why did you choose this photo for front cover over others? Trying to understand what the photo is portraying other than possibly anger.

Best success with your book.

Thanks for the kind words!

Getting photos from Apple is VERY HARD. Almost every photo taken of an Apple executive is licensed by Apple. Especially portraits. Apple buys up the copyright and makes it impossible to use them. We had huge problems getting photos for my previous books on Jobs and Jony Ive. Apple didn't help with those, and declined to license any pictures, so we had to turn to news agencies.

As for this photo of Cook, it was originally shot for the cover of Time magazine, and we thought it was arresting.

Yeah, I know he looks pretty serious, but I personally like it. He's a serious guy!!!
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Thank you Mr. Kahney for taking the time! I joined the forum after being a lurker forever just to participate.

My question is: How much of a "product" person is Tim, and how much vision does he seem to have for Apple's product line? And as a follow on, how much does he pay attention to press and public reaction and let it influence his vision and decisions?

Tim isn't as much of a product person as Steve Jobs, that's for sure. But it's not clear that it matters. He has one of the world's best product people working for him: Jony Ive.

And it's not just Jony Ive of course, it's the industrial design studio they built and the studio's process of experimentation, prototyping and iteration that's important.

Pixar is a good example. Even when Jobs was around, he didn't have much input in the creative day-to-day, and Pixar still managed a decade of blockbusters without his input.
[doublepost=1554836859][/doublepost]
hello,

It appears that Tim Cook is basically living at Apple office right? Do you know if he's playing the guitare at his office or does he have some hobbies other than being a the most productive CEO?

Cycling and hiking are the only two hobbies I know of.
 
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rshrugged

macrumors 6502a
Oct 11, 2015
937
663
Hi leander,

I'm not provoking a political discussion or asking about your or anyone else's political viewpoint.

During your research, did you find any evidence of unease regarding Mr. Cook's external political proclivities/activism? Internal?

TIA
 
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TheBigApple2006

macrumors regular
Feb 20, 2006
236
14
Hi Leander - Thanks for doing this. To what extent do you think that Cook is as committed to the Mac product line as he is to the portable devices - iPad, iPhone, Watch? Innovation there has been far ahead of the laptop and desktop lines. We have all heard about Intel processor delays, but the Macbook hasn't been updated in 2 years, iMac updates are not substantial, innovation is not as much as with the iDevices. The gap between Apple and competitors is at times thin, and at times to the advantage of competitors. Is the Mac line receiving the bare minimum of attention?
 
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