Published May 30, 2012
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. – Apple chief executive Tim Cook sought to clarify his image Tuesday as leader of the gadget giant in the wake of his high-profile predecessor Steve Jobs.
Cook, speaking at the "D: All Things Digital" conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., noted some specific areas where Apple was operating in new ways under his leadership, by expanding philanthropic efforts and more closely scrutinizing its outsourced manufacturing in China.
But Cook also cited areas where Apple has no plans to change: Staying extremely secretive about new products and fighting to protect its innovations in court if necessary.
Cook became CEO of Apple last August, when company co-founder Jobs resigned in the midst of a battle with pancreatic cancer. Jobs died a little more than a month later.
Cook would only make passing mention of two of Apple's key Silicon Valley peers, Google and Facebook. When he was asked what he thinks of Google's innovations, he responded, "I love Apple's."
Jobs was known to have taken offense at Google's mobile phone technology, which spawned a series of devices that resemble Apple's iPhone. Apple has been embroiled in patent litigation with companies making phones based on Google's mobile software, including Samsung.
Cook was also asked about Facebook, the social network that has had a conspicuously small presence on Apple devices despite boasting more than 900 million users.
"I think we can do more with them," Cook said. "They have their way of doing things, but people can say that about us as well."
Another area of further innovation for Apple will be the Siri voice-command technology featured in the latest version of the iPhone -- which has been criticized for being gimmicky and of little practical use.
"There's more that it can do, and we have a lot of people working on this," Cook said.
Cook wore a black T-shirt beneath a collared shirt and jacket that recalled Jobs' signature black turtleneck and at one point appeared on the verge of being overtaken with emotion as he recalled the period of Jobs' death as "absolutely the saddest days of my life."
Late last year, Cook said, "somebody kind of shook me and said, it's time to get on."
Now, Cook said, he is at ease with making Apple his own.
"I've never really viewed or felt the weight of trying to be Steve, it's not who I am, and it's not my goal in life. I am who I am, and I'm focused on that, and being a great CEO," he said.
Cook also said the company has now begun "micro-managing" working conditions at China-based factories that manufacture products for Apple. One goal has been to reduce overtime. "We're measuring working hours for 700,000 people, I don't know of anybody else doing that," he said.
Cook said he is making his own decisions as a leader in part due to some advice Jobs gave him prior to his death, when he asked that Cook not rely on his legacy.
"He told me to never do that, to never ask what he would do," Cook said. "Just do what was right."