6 things I learned from Dua Lipa's eye-opening conversation with Tim Cook

Steve Jobs
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I somehow had no idea that pop icon Dua Lipa had her own talker with the BBC, let alone the fact that she nabbed Apple CEO Tim Cook for a rare 45-minute sit-down. Cook didn't break any major Apple news, but listening to the interview I did gain some rare insight into the relatively private CEO, and one key peek at how Apple plans for an uncertain future.

Five years ago, I read Leander Kahney’s Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level. The biography offered up Cook's life story, but unlike Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs posthumous bio, Kahney apparently never interviewed his subject. Cook remained a bit of a cipher. Lipa's casual sit-down in her home, a week or so after the iPhone 15 launch, did a better job of drawing out the real Tim Cook, even if he does occasionally fall back on what can sound like Apple marketing department-scripted answers.

Here's some of what I learned about the captain of one of the richest and most important companies in the world.

Cook is a little like me

Cook wakes up early. In fact, since he rises between four and five in the morning, he actually beats me by an hour.

He checks emails in the morning while I check newsfeeds (to-may-to, to-mah-to)

He works out every morning. Check. I do it every day, though I do not have Cook's trainer to push me.

Cook is still a humble guy

Steve Jobs with first iPhone

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, still casts a long shadow. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Cook, who was hired by Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs in 1998, and took over for him as CEO shortly before Jobs died in 2011, operates in Jobs' long shadow. But when Lipa asked Cook if he thinks he gets enough credit (all that value built under his tenure, for instance), Cook made it clear – and I believe him – that Apple is still, in a way, Steve Jobs' company: 

"I think only Steve could’ve created Apple," he said. "We owe him a debt of gratitude. If he were still alive today, the company would be doing outstanding, and he would still be CEO."

Cook will be focused on equality long after he leaves Apple

Tim Cook in 2018

Tim Cook will be an equality crusader when he finally departs Apple. (Image credit: Lance Ulanoff)

Cook, who publicly came out as gay in 2014 and instantly became the only publicly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company, claimed there's a "glass ceiling" for LGBTQ people and people of color in the industry, and thinks it's "bizarre" that there are not more openly gay CEOs. He also insisted that Apple has smashed its own glass ceiling.

If and when Cook finally leaves Apple, he told Lipa that, as he gives away the majority of his personal fortune, working on equality will be one of his primary focuses, along with helping the underprivileged get better educations.

Cook has no illusions about AI

Siri interface on iPhone display

Apple is very careful with AI, could that hurt Siri's development chances? (Image credit: Shutterstock / DedMityay)

As he noted before, Apple uses AI in all of its products. Some years ago the company told me how, for instance, AI is used for battery management, and Cook told Lipa that it's used in email for auto-complete.

Cook remains a strong proponent of AI regulation, and does think that while "most governments are behind the curve today," he thinks we'll see AI regulation within the next 18 months.

As for what Apple will and won't do with AI (generative and otherwise), Cook made it clear what Apple won't do, saying "If they can be used for nefarious reasons, we don’t go down those paths."

I do wonder how that stance might limit Siri's development as a possible LLM platform. Of course, I didn't expect Lipa to go that deep with Cook.

The Vision Pro is a reflection of our minds

Apple Vision Pro

Vision Pro is meant to be an extension of you. (Image credit: Apple)

Lipa was clearly fascinated by Apple's Vision Pro mixed reality headset (read our full Apple Vision Pro review). I've spent some time with the platform, and I do find it, in some ways, revolutionary. Cook noted all the time Apple spent developing Vision Pro and added, "We spent years in researching and developing this product to make it so simple to use that it works like your mind works."

Making products that allow you to "think and do" as opposed to think, try to figure out, search, attempt, and guess again before you get results, is really Apple's trademark. It's something I noted with the very first iPhone, and it's good to see that as Apple ventures into a new product area it's sticking to its core product development principles.

Cook's delivers sort-of news

Apple COO Jeff Williams

Current Apple COO Jeff Williams is a strong candidate to succeed Cook (Image credit: Getty Images)

Cook, who is now 63, has been at Apple for 25 years. On the question of retirement, he made it clear to Lipa that he's not going anywhere.

"I love it there," he told her. "I can’t envision life without being there. I will be there for a while."

So the salient point here is that Tim Cook is Apple's CEO for the foreseeable future. However, on the question of succession plans, Cook may have surprised some by saying that Apple has "detailed succession plans" in the unfortunate event Cook steps off the wrong curb.

Cook told Lipa his job is "to prepare several people for the ability to succeed."

This makes sense, and it's a reminder on how good Cook is at every aspect of his job, because the best managers always develop their successors.

Cook, and I'm sure Apple as a whole, want the next CEO to come from within the company. If I had to make a guess, the most likely candidate would be current Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams.

Williams often appears in Apple's product announcement videos, but he's otherwise not a forward-facing Apple presence. Of course, Tim Cook's previous job was Apple COO and he, too, was not someone people knew much about in 2009 before he stepped in for Jobs for the first time, during Jobs' liver transplant surgery and recovery.

Whoever takes the Apple CEO mantle, they best cool their heels. Cook, who was clearly in his element chatting to Dua Lipa, is not going anywhere.

And that's probably a good thing for Apple, and for fans of Apple products.

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Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.