For many months Brian Williams has been trying to get Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook to sit down for an interview, but to no avail. Then something changed — Apple decided it was time to become more of a “Made In America” company, and as part of Apple’s charm offensive they announced on Rock Center with Brian Williams last night that beginning next year they will be making one of their Mac products entirely in America. The reasons why it hadn’t happened sooner might surprise you. As Cook explains, it’s not as if the manufacturing of these devices somehow left the United States and moved to China years ago — the skills required to make these machines were never in America to begin with. “The consumer electronics world was really never here,” Cook said. “It’s a matter of starting it here.”
Cook took over for Steve Jobs when the iconic founder of Apple passed away in October 2011, and as Brian Williams notes in the opening of his feature profile: “Nobody remembers the guy who came after Thomas Edison; and nobody seems to recognize Tim Cook as we walk together across the teeming floor of Grand Central Station.” One of the most interesting details I learned from the sit-down was how Steve Jobs poached Tim from another company back in the late 1990s. When Steve Jobs returned to overhaul Apple in 1998 one of the first things he did was steal Tim away from COMPAQ, a company where Tim was shaping an impressive reputation for himself as a revolutionary innovator. Cook explains how on the flight to Houston where he was about to meet with Steve for the first time he had zero interest in leaving COMPAQ. By the time he stepped on his return flight Steve Jobs had not only changed his mind entirely, Tim reveals how he was filled with goosebumps by the vision Jobs had in his mind for Apple’s future. The only awkward moment between the two takes place in the second part where Williams refers to Cook as “conventional”. It was completely out of place and I’m not sure what Brian was thinking in framing that part of the conversation that way.
Tim Cook also happens to be gay, and I was a little bit disappointed to not hear him open up about his personal life a little bit more, but it’s understandable I guess. This is about Apple, not his life story. But listening to Tim speak about his company’s need for laser focus, their mandate to be great at just a few things instead of everything (which is what killed SONY), and their infamous legal and marketing battles with rival Samsung, is fascinating to watch. Brian closes the interview with a desperate plea to know more about Apple’s rumoured plans for the television industry, but with limited results. “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years,” Cook told Williams. “It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.”