"We screwed up": Tim Cook on Apple Maps

Apple CEO explains what went wrong there.

In order to drum up publicity for Apple's new range of US iMacs, Tim Cook gave a long interview for Bloomberg Businessweek, in which he explained how Apple "screwed up" over Apple Maps, and what they plan to do about it:

So what are we doing? We’re putting all of our energy into making it right. And we have already had several software updates. We’ve got a huge plan to make it even better. It will get better and better over time. But it wasn’t a matter that we … decided strategy over customers. We screwed up. That’s the fact.

What were they thinking in the first place, though?

The reason we did Maps is we looked at this, and we said, “What does the customer want? What would be great for the customer?” We wanted to provide the customer turn-by-turn directions. We wanted to provide the customer voice integration. We wanted to provide the customer flyover. And so we had a list of things that we thought would be a great customer experience, and we couldn’t do it any other way than to do it ourselves.

Scott Forstall, Apple's former mobile software head also gets a mention. What went wrong there? Cook is a little evasive:

The key in the change that you’re referencing is my deep belief that collaboration is essential for innovation—and I didn’t just start believing that. I’ve always believed that. It’s always been a core belief at Apple. Steve very deeply believed this.

So the changes—it’s not a matter of going from no collaboration to collaboration. We have an enormous level of collaboration in Apple, but it’s a matter of taking it to another level. You look at what we are great at. There are many things. But the one thing we do, which I think no one else does, is integrate hardware, software, and services in such a way that most consumers begin to not differentiate anymore. They just care that the experience is fantastic.

So how do we keep doing that and keep taking it to an even higher level? You have to be an A-plus at collaboration. And so the changes that we made get us to a whole new level of collaboration. We’ve got services all in one place, and the guy that’s running that has incredible skills in services, has an incredible track record, and I’m confident will do fantastic things.

Looks like Scott Forstall wasn't so great at collaboration then.

The company have invested over $100m in their new range of iMacs. Speaking to NBC's Brian Williams, Tim Cook said that the company had been aiming for the US for some time, and that several Apple components are already manufactured there:

"The engine in [the iPhone] is made in America... but engines are made in America and are exported. The glass on this phone is made in Kentucky. We've been working for years on doing more and more in the United States."

Tim Cook. Photograph: Getty Images
Getty Images.
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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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