For her last-ever Code Conference, Kara Swisher gathered Tim Cook, Jony Ive, and Laurene Powell Jobs on the same stage to reminisce on the life and legacy of Steve Jobs. Jobs was Swisher’s first interview at Code Conference 20 years ago, when it was called D: All Things Digital.
Head below for a roundup of some quotes from the wide-ranging interview between Swisher, Jobs, Cook, and Ive. Topics included stories on debates between Tim and Steve, designing with Jony, what Steve might be doing today, and much more.
On how Steve would see the world and Apple today
Tim Cook: I believe and hope that he would be proud. On a day like this where we bring out a lot of innovation that are true to the principles he laid out. On the greater world, he would be troubled by a lot of what he sees. The sort of partisanship and division in the world. But I think he would be happy we are living up to the values core to him like privacy and protecting the environment.
These were core to him. We’re keeping up innovation and trying to give people something that enables them to do something they couldn’t do otherwise. And to give them tools to discover their own self and to change the world in their own ways.
Laurene Powell Jobs: I would say not only the polarization, not only the fact that people are really coming to blows within families and communities and our country, but also just that he loved our country so much. He loved California so much, but he loved our country. He loved the idea of America.
It was very important to him to be able to give something back to the human experience, and I think he would not be quiet about it.
Jony Ive: Certainly disappointed. I could imagine him being sort of mad and furious but also combined with that sort of compassion and love for the ideals that Laurene described. If you’re going to do something that’s really hard, you need that sort of fuel and fury. I think he would have bought his curiosity and lack of fear to have ideas.
On today’s design challenges and … Tesla?
Jony: The challenges remain the same. I do think there are fabulous affordances with interfaces like, for example, multi-touch. But we do remain physical beings. I think, potentially, the pendulum may swing a little to have interfaces and products that are more time and more engaged physically.
Kara: Like cars?
Jony: For example, yeah.
Kara: What would a car you design look like?
Jony: You know I can’t tell you that.
Laurene: I’m not a car person, really. I love beautiful old ones that are no longer safe to drive, so I find my cars soulless. I would say I know [Tim and Jony] don’t love the design of Tesla, but I appreciate the degree of its safety. It’s really quite nice.
On debating Steve Jobs
Tim: There was always debate. I know there was folklore that you didn’t debate him, but that’s not true. In fact, if you didn’t debate him, he would kind of mow you down. And he just did not work well with those kinds of folks that would not feel comfortable debating and pushing back.
Kara: What was the biggest debate you and Steve had?
Tim Cook: The way the original iPhone was sold. I was for putting it in the subsidy model and he was for the rev share. His way was more creative and more different; my way would have scaled faster, at least I felt strongly. And so we were in quite a discussion about this for a while, it was a multi-year discussion.
What do you think Steve would be doing today?
Tim: I wouldn’t want to guess. I think Steve was constantly changing; he wasn’t static. He would take a firmly held belief, and presented with new facts would change. It was one of the great things I admired about him.
I think that is such a great characteristic of people because people get held back by their old thinking, regardless of what new thoughts and ideas come up.
Laurene: He would be evolving. He also was quite mindful about not staying too long at the helm and making room for others. He did have a fantasy of teaching eventually, and because we live right near Stanford, you know that notion of riding the bike to Stanford and teaching classes. I think he could teach almost anything, and people would really benefit from it.
Jony: I couldn’t agree more. I think part of curiosity, which I think defines so much of Steve, is your appetite to learn. And to learn is more important than being right, as Tim said.
Best and worst traits
Laurene: Every day he had a list of people he called and he just would ask them what’s going on. ‘What are you seeing? What are you thinking about? What are you watching?’
He would go across industry and call people who, of course, would answer the phone, and he would just, you know, pick people’s brains constantly, which was really interesting. I think it’s not a widely-spoken about trait of his.
However, when he would, to his detriment, feel so confident in a point of view that is the corollary, he actually didn’t necessarily interrogate it in a way that he might have. But it also played to his benefit.
Tim: If we’re looking to change in our business, we actually have fierce competitors; we’re in the most competitive industry. We’re not the leader in terms of market share; Samsung is. There are lots of other people in the smartphone business as well, including Google.
And so all of these folks are spending time and tons of money around the world. What we do is we just try to very simply tell our product story.
The Steve Jobs Archive
Describe Steve Jobs in one word
Kara closed the conference tearfully reading one of her favorite Steve Jobs quotes:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
There’s no replay of the event available yet, but we’ll be sure to share it when or if it becomes available.