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How Apple Stays Two Steps Ahead of the Competition–and You Can, Too

The Apple CEO reiterated the company’s consumer focus, touching on points from user experience to his experience working with the White House.

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BY Kaitlyn Wang - 16 Jun 2017

Keynote Address Opens Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Tim Cook sits at the top of one the world's most valuable and recognizable companies, but his decisions are powered by two simple things: a respect for Steve Jobs's principles and a focus on consumers, if not people. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Apple CEO discussed multiple ways he and Apple remain rooted in a vision of a brighter future--through people.

Here are three ways Apple has managed to excel--and you can too.

1. You don't have to be first to succeed...

Cook identified the importance of the quality of user experience as one of Steve Jobs's guiding principles--and one that Apple has continued to hail. While the phone maker's products have been revolutionary, Cook noted that none of them were the first of its kind: the iPod was not the first MP3 player, the iPad wasn't the first tablet.

"We invest for the long term," Cook said to Businessweek. "We don't feel an impatience to be first. It's just not how we're wired. Our thing is to be the best and to give the user something that really makes a difference in their lives."

This idea extends to the HomePod, Cook said. Apple's smart home speaker, unveiled last week at WWDC, comes after Amazon's Alexa and Google's Home, but Cook is banking on it being the best experience to justify the price tag of $349.

"It's actually not about competing, from our point of view," Cook said. "It's about thinking through for the Apple user what thing will improve their lives."

2. ...But you do need to plan ahead.

Sure, Apple isn't the first to come out with things like MP3 players or tablets. That doesn't mean that the Silicon Valley tech giant doesn't stay ahead of the pack. The company just recently revealed that it's working on a self-driving car, and previously it had disclosed that augmented reality would be a key component in its iOS down the road. Cook explained further that his idea of staying ahead involved helping support the growth of different industries. By focusing Apple's resources on, say, advanced manufacturing, he's helping the company and the country.

Cook told Businessweek that he felt responsible for creating more jobs in the United States, and he offered the company's recent $1 billion fund to boost advanced manufacturing as exhibit A. "Apple builds so many components here. That's lost to a lot of people because they only look at the final assembly." By helping improve the manufacturing process, the company (and the country), he says, can stay at the forefront of the industry. "we can do the most in advanced manufacturing." Its first recipient, which got $200 million from the fund, is glass manufacturer, Corning.

3. Focus on (all of) your customers.

For a long time, Windows was the operating system of choice for many enterprises. Not anymore, Cook said, and that's because of Apple's acute focus on the consumer. Cook claims that most enterprises prefer the iOS system for mobile use, because of its user compatibility and the ability to connect to consumers directly. It's about realizing what all consumers want and need--even enterprise customers, said Cook. "When you care about people's happiness and productivity, you give them what brings out the best in them and their creativity," he told Businessweek. "And if you give them a choice, they'll say, 'I want an iPhone' or 'I want a Mac.' We think we can win a lot of corporate decisions at that level."