In a rare pair of interviews, Apple CEO Tim Cook, joined by head of software Craig Federighi and Apple design guru Jony Ive, have spoken out about the iPhone 5c, Android, iOS 7, innovation, collaboration and future products.
Image: Bloomberg Businessweek. We also particularly like the photographs in the cover trail, which you can see here.
Media surrounding Apple recently has frequently suggested that Apple is doomed, but Apple's chief executives aren't losing sleep over such reports, a Bloomberg Businessweek interview has revealed.
"I don't feel euphoric on the up, and I don't slit my wrists when it goes down," said Cook when asked about how he feels about Apple's stock price, which is currently around a third lower than it was at its highest point last year. "I have ridden the roller coaster too many times for that."
When Apple unveiled its iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c on 10 September, it caused Apple shares to fall by 5 per cent. "Am I happy about that? No, I'm not," Cook said. "You have to bring yourself back to, 'Are you doing the right things?' And so that's what I focus on, instead of letting somebody else or a thing like the market define how I should feel."
iPhone 5c is not junk
The iPhone 5c has received criticism due to its price, which isn't as low as previously expected. As for criticism about the low-cost iPhone 5c, which isn't so low-cost after all, starting at £469 unsubsidised, Cook said: "There's always a large junk part of the market, we're not in the junk business."
"We never had an objective to sell a low-cost phone," Cook continued. "Our primary objective is to sell a great phone and provide a great experience, and we figured out a way to do it at a lower cost."
On the subject of operating systems, Cook spoke a bit about the competition between iOS and Android, which has been hotting up with the growing popularity of Android devices such as Samsung's Galaxy line-up.
"I think its even more a two-operating-system world today than it was before," said Cook. "When you look at things like customer satisfaction and usage, you see the gap between Android and iOS being huge," he added.
Plus, Cook also highlighted statistics that suggest Android owners don't use their devices as much as Apple products. According to NetMarketShare, iOS devices account for almost 55 per cent of all mobile web activity, while Android only makes up 28 per cent of activity.
"Does a unit of market share matter if it's not being used?" Cook asked. "For us, it matters that people use our products. We really want to enrich people's lives, and you can't enrich somebody's life if the product is in the drawer."
"I don't think of Android as one thing," adds Cook, referring to the fragmentation of the operating system. Less than half of all Android users use "Jelly Bean," the latest Android operating system, while the remaining 55 per cent are still using the older "Gingerbread" or "Ice Cream Sandwich" versions of Android. On the other hand, 93 per cent of iOS users were running iOS 6 by the end of June, according to Apple. And what with the problems updating to iOS 7 on 18 September thanks to heavy demand, we're guessing a huge proportion of iOS users will be updating to iOS 7 soon, if they haven't already.
Fragmentation on this scale is less than ideal for developers of third-party apps, and Cook notes that, for those with Android devices unable to update to the latest version (there are a significant number of such devices still being sold in stores today) it's like "me right now having in my pocket iOS 3. I can't imagine it."
"Everybody is attempting to adopt Apple's strategy," Cook said, backing up his boast by pointing out business moves made by competitors in the past year.
Microsoft has recently purchased Nokia as it attempts to integrate software and hardware like Apple does, while Google purchased Motorola Mobility in 2011 in a similar move.
Samsung's debut developers conference and its dedicated retail shops are also an example.
"We're not looking for external validation of our strategy," said Cook. "But I think it does suggest that there's a lot of copying, kind of, on the strategy and that people have recognised the importance."
Innovate or die
Speaking of Nokia, Cook highlighted that Nokia is a prime example of a cautionary tale, as the company once dominated the mobile market. "I think [Nokia] is a reminder to everyone in business that you have to keep innovating and that to not innovate is to die."
Cook wasn't alone during the interview with Bloomberg. Joining him were Jony Ive and Craig Federighi, who told Bloomberg that, while an executive shake-up in October 2012 made their partnership official, they've been working together for years with their desks at Apple just a minute's walk away from one another. "I don't think we ever talked about our roles," said Ive. "We talked about how can we most effectively extend the collaboration that always existed."
Cook says collaboration is key within Apple, and has previously claimed that encouraging collaboration was the reason behind the executive shake-up that saw Scott Forstall booted out of the company.
"Successful collaboration, in your mind, could be that your opinion is the most valuable and becomes the prevailing sort of direction. That's not collaborating," said Ive.
Ive and Federighi both share a focus on usability and simplicity, they say. When discussing what people look for when using a product, Ive explained: "I think, every often, you can't call out by attribute or name areas of value. But I do think that we sense when somebody has cared. And one thing that is incontrovertible is how much we've cared."
There's been talk about a "lack of innovation" inside Apple over the past year, but Ive and Federighi disagree, highlighting the iPhone 5s' fingerprint scanner, which Ive says caused "so many problems that had to be solved to enable one big idea."
"We didn't start opportunistically with 10 bits of technology that we could try to find a use for to add to our features list," said Ive in a probable jibe at Samsung and its Galaxy S4.
"New? New is easy," said Federighi. "Right is hard"
A second interview, this one from USA Today with just Ive and Federighi, the Apple executives spoke about iOS 7.
"When we sat down last November (to work on iOS 7) we understood that people had already become confortable with touching glass, they didn't need physical buttons, they understand the benefits," Ive said, explaining the reason for ditching skeuomorphic elements that Apple previously loved to use within iOS. "So there was an incredible liberty in not having to reference the physical world so literally. We were trying to create an environment that was less specific. It got design out of the way."
See: iOS 7 review
"Before, the shadowing effect we used was a great way to distract from the limitations of the display," added Federighi. "But with a display that's this precise, there's nowhere to hide. So we wanted a clear typography."
"Yes, we wanted to defer to the content, and just get out of the way," said Ive.
iPhone 5s camera improvements
When explaining the reasons behind the decision not to increase the megapixels of the camera of the iPhone 5s, but rather to make the pixels bigger, Federighi said: "Look at the camera space, companies are chasing megapixels but the pictures often look horrible because of their tiny sensors. My family cares about taking a good picture, not a megapixel count. We carry that through to all the decisions we make about our phone. What experience is it going to deliver? Not what number will it allow us to put on a spec sheet."
"That's exactly it," said Ive. "It's just easier to talk about product attributes that you can measure with a number. Focus on price, screen size, that's easy. But there's a more difficult path, and that's to make better products, ones where maybe you can't measure their value empirically."
"This is terribly important and at the heart of what we do," Ive continued. "We care about how to design the inside of something you'll never see, because we think it's the right thing to do."
"I've said this before, but simplicity is, well, it goes back to…you're trying to define the essence of something and come up with a solution that seems utterly inevitable and obvious," Ive told USA Today. "I think a lot of people see simplicity as the lack of clutter. And that's not the case at all. True simplicity is, well, you just keep on going and going until you get to the point where you go, 'Yeah, well, of course.' Where there's no rational alternative."
On future products
"I would love, love, love to show you what we are working on now, but I'd lose my job," Ive teased. "But you've got a sense perhaps not what we are building, but the way we approach problems as a group."
"I do sense that people can tell we really care," he continued. "We make products that we think are right, that maybe you can't easily justify or evaluate, but they feel right."
On Apple without Jobs
There have been many people that question how Apple is coping under the leadership of Tim Cook following the death of Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs. However, Ive insists that the company still works in the same way as it did while Jobs was alive.
"I've been here for years, and the way we're working is the same," Ive said. "Nothing's changed in terms of that. We're trying to solve problems in terms of future products that are incredibly complex, whose resolutions have no precedent."
"People come here for the values that are evident in every product we build," Federighi added. "When we make decisions, it's not a battle of people trying to break us out of our value system. We all want to double down on these values, whose aim is to make things simpler, more focused. Those are spoken and unspoken mantras in all the discussions we have. You can call that Steve's legacy, but it's Apple now."