The Age of Tim Cook

After all the product announcements and updates in yesterday’s WWDC keynote, Tim Cook closed by showing a new Apple ad titled “Designed By Apple.” Just as in the recent iPhone ads, we see images of people going about their lives. They might be holding an iPhone or sitting near a MacBook, but the gadgets are just barely there, almost a whisper of themselves. The focus is unquestionably on people. The voice-over in Designed by Apple reads as follows:

This is it.
This is what matters.
The experience of a product.
How it will make someone feel.
Will it make life better?
Does it deserve to exist?
We spend a lot of time on a few great things, until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches.
You may rarely look at it, but you’ll always feel it.
This is our signature, and it means everything.

After more than a year at the helm, it’s clear that Tim Cook is putting his stamp on Apple, and this is it. In these commercials, the technology gets out of the way. Products aren’t a goal on their own, they’re a means to an end, a way to make people’s lives better. You can hear that philosophy shine through when Cook talks about things like iOS’s accessibility features that let a blind man to go for a walk in the woods. The focus isn’t on gee whiz technology, it’s on what people are able to do with it. The point of the iPhone camera commercial isn’t the number of megapixels or colors – it’s the photos people take of their friends and loved ones, their parents and their children.

You can also see that theme emerging in iOS 7’s new design. We can quibble over aesthetics, but the goal of getting design out of the way and letting content take over is admirable. Again, the focus isn’t on the technology, but what you do with it. It’s not on how your email client looks and works, but on the messages you get from people in your life.

Of course, Apple is a product company, and its goal is to sell us gizmos and gadgets. But the remarkable focus, and one that’s quickly becoming Cook’s signature, is on doing that by making products that really enrich people’s lives. It’s not about being flashy, or having the most features, or checking off the most boxes. Some will dismiss that as mushy gobbledygook, but it’s not the worst way a company could answer the question, “Should we build this?”

This isn’t about leaving Steve Jobs behind. Far from it. Under Steve, Apple’s goal was always to make great products regardless of what others were doing. But make no mistake, Tim Cook is putting his own stamp on Apple. It’s a little more human, a little more personal, even down to the funnier, more casual tone of the WWDC keynote. Cook has chosen to surround himself with people and a philosophy that focus on the humanity in technology even more directly than Steve did. Sounds like a pretty good sign for the months and years ahead.