Apple was wrong about the potential of augmented reality headsets and glasses, says CEO Tim Cook, adding that Steve Jobs taught him to be willing to admit mistakes.
The rest of the lengthy GQ profile and interview covers familiar ground, and Cook’s usual talking points …
To be fair to Cook, his early dismissive comments were predicting that Google Glass would flop, and he certainly wasn’t wrong about that. But he does acknowledge to GQ’s Zach Baron that he was mistaken about the potential for AR headsets and glasses more generally.
Years ago, when asked about the possibility of Apple manufacturing glasses, in the mold of Google Glass, an early AR product, Cook told The New Yorker’s Ian Parker that he was skeptical of the enterprise: “We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them. They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed.” He said then: “We always thought it would flop, and, you know, so far it has.”
When I raise this with Cook, he laughs. “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.”
Cook also reiterated Apple’s formula for deciding whether or not to enter a market, asking himself two questions
Can we make a significant contribution, in some kind of way, something that other people are not doing? Can we own the primary technology? I’m not interested in putting together pieces of somebody else’s stuff. Because we want to control the primary technology. Because we know that’s how you innovate.
There have been a lot of skeptics when it comes to Apple’s upcoming headset, suggesting Apple was wrong in deciding to move into this market, and Cook again gives the usual company line on this.
“Pretty much everything we’ve ever done, there were loads of skeptics with it,” Cook says. “If you do something that’s on the edge, it will always have skeptics.”
Famously, both the iPhone and Apple Watch were widely predicted to fail.
The rest of the profile rehashes the usual stuff: Cook’s schedule, his reading of customer emails, the design of Apple Park to encourage collaboration, his decision to join Apple, growing into the CEO role after Steve’s passing, looking forward rather than back, his love of hiking, the “Why are you still here?” story about an operations exec describing a problem in China, why he was willing to engage with Trump, deciding to come out as gay, the importance of privacy in technology, Apple’s environmental stance, not wanting people to stare at their phones all day, the growth of Services.
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