Tim Cook Devotes a Lot of Words to Saying Very Little

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Tim Cook talked about his five years at the helm of Apple in a wide-ranging interview The Washington Post published Saturday. Apple fans looking for juicy morsels about new products won't find them in the Q & A, however.

Among other things, Cook discounted the bleak claims of those analysts who maintain the smartphone market is in decline -- and Apple's fortunes with it.

The smartphone product category's best days are still ahead, he suggested.

Cook's view isn't just wishful thinking, according to Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

"All the data says his position on the growth of smartphones is accurate," he told the E-Commerce Times. "There is still a lot of room to grow this market."

The smartphone market isn't the only sector Cook sees as ripe for growth.

The company's enterprise opportunity is enormous, he said in the interview, noting Apple's US$25 billion in enterprise-related revenue last year. He pointed to collaboration with key partners as key to that success.

During the interview, Cook revealed that he had expected Apple cofounder Steve Jobs to be around longer to guide the leadership transition.

Jobs was irreplaceable, Cook said, and he himself never thought of attempting to take on his mentor's role.

The contrast between Cook and Jobs is clear, noted Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"Tim Cook is definitely more open about his process in managing and being the CEO," he told the E-Commerce Times. "He's also more open to input from outside sources."

CEOs should avoid being trapped in an echo chamber, Cook remarked in the interview, adding that it's their responsibility to seek out different points of view.

Among those Cook mentioned as having provided him with advice are investor Warren Buffett, former President Bill Clinton and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Cook also acknowledged two of his greatest mistakes: Apple Maps 1.0, and the hiring of former Dixons CEO John Browett to run Apple's retail division.

Apple had to shift gears on Maps in order to come up with the product the company offers today, which is one it can be proud of, Cook said.

Admitting the Apple's errors took self-honesty and courage, he added, but that honesty is necessary to hold onto both employees and customers.

Much of what Cook said in the interview had a familiar ring to it, noted Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

"We didn't learn anything tremendously new from it," he told the E-Commerce Times. "For the most part, he talked about things he's talked about before."

"What's most interesting about the interview to me is how uninteresting and unrevealing it is," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"Outside of its overall length, Cook doesn't go much beyond his past statements in answering similar questions," King pointed out. "These are measured, controlled responses by a person who leads the world's largest, richest company. Cook doesn't give anything away. Then again, as a company Apple doesn't give anything away -- so in a sense Cook is simply reflecting the culture of the organization he leads."

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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