Tim Cook talks enterprise partnerships, letting go of grudges with Box CEO Levie

During a fireside chat with Box CEO Aaron Levie, Apple CEO Tim Cook divulged some interesting tidbits about why the longtime consumer technology company made a pivot to the enterprise.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

During a BoxWorks fireside chat with Box CEO Aaron Levie, Apple CEO Tim Cook divulged some interesting tidbits about why the longtime consumer technology company made a pivot to the enterprise.

"We have always been about making tools that allow people to do things that they couldn't do without them," Cook said. "So for a while, when the world was bifurcated between the consumer and enterprise, we focused on consumer."

But that bifurcation has subsided, Cook said, and people no longer approach their technology as one or the other. There's no enterprise-specific smartphone, no enterprise-based car, Cook said. Instead, the things that make devices work great for consumers make them great for enterprise as well.

Apple's enterprise ambitions started long before the IBM partnership, Cook said, noting that the company began building enterprise features into its software several years ago.

And while Cook didn't mince words on Apple's enterprise qualifications -- such as its security features and its overall iOS -- he made a point to stress the importance of partnerships in Apple's overall enterprise strategy.

"What we don't bring is we don't have deep knowledge of all the verticals that the enterprise deals with," Cook said. "So to do great things we need to partner with other people. This is all about giving a suite of applications to the enterprise so we can really change how people work."

Of course, Cook addressed Apple's surprise partnership with its former rival, Microsoft, and in a way illustrated how much Apple has changed since the start of Cook's tenure.

"Apple and Microsoft can partner on more things that we can compete on and that is what the customer wants ... Office on the Mac is a force," Cook said. "Partnering with Microsoft is great for our customers and that's why we do it."

"I am not a believer of holding grudges, life is short and you've got to have as many friends as you can have," Cook added.

Levie prodded Cook on Android, asking why iOS should be a preferred platform for the enterprise. Cook took a moment before he quipped, "You want to pick the best product."

Cook also made a point to dismiss the idea that Apple will merge its iOS mobile software with its OS X computer software.

"We don't believe in having one operating system for PC and mobile," Cook said. "We think it subtracts from both, and you don't get the best experience from either. We're very much focused on two."

On the subject of mobility, Cook pointed out that many enterprises, including Apple, have yet to tap into the full potential that today's technology brings to the table. Cook noted firms such as Eli Lilly and GE as standouts, but said there aren't really any companies deserving of a high grade compared to the opportunity that's out there.

While Apple's enterprise efforts have yet to fully materialize, the company has already made $25 billion from its enterprise business for the past 12 months ended in June, Cook revealed.

"So this is not a hobby," he added.

When Levie asked Cook what's next for Apple, Cook stated boldly, "We haven't even started yet."

"Keep in mind our goal isn't to be the biggest," Cook said. "We've always wanted to make the best, and we've always believed very deeply that if we made the best products, we can keep investing and doing more work."

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