Apple CEO Tim Cooks embraces Box CEO Aaron Levie at BoxWorks.

In the Steve Jobs era, Apple’s CEO rarely appeared outside of the company’s own carefully stage-managed product launches. Tim Cook made a statement just by sitting down with Box CEO Aaron Levie at the online-storage company’s annual BoxWorks conference in San Francisco for a conversation Tuesday.

The message: Apple wants to connect with business customers through partners like Box—and IBM, and Cisco, both of whose names Cook repeatedly dropped.

Levie and Cook both praised Microsoft, a company with which both Apple and Box have historically sparred, for becoming a better partner. Microsoft Office now works well on Apple devices and with Box’s storage and collaboration services.

See also: Developers Can Now Have Their Own Box

“Apple and Microsoft can partner on more things than they can compete on,” Cook said. “I’m not a believer in holding grudges. Life is short. You’re going to die soon. It’s better to have friends.”

Friends With Business Benefits

Apple’s partnership with Box, in broad strokes, follows a template Cook set with a deal it struck with IBM last year. Apple offers developer-relations staff to help specialists at business-focused companies create apps for specific industries like healthcare, retail, or education; in turn, those companies’ customers, one hopes, buy iPhones, Macs, and iPads. (One imagines the iPad Pro, in particular, getting a sales boost from these partnerships.)

“We’ll have developer relations working with several companies creating applications,” Cook said. “In many cases Box will see the need before we will—or IBM will [see it], or Cisco will.”

Besides hardware sales, Apple benefits from getting more time and attention from those business-app developers. Box, for example, is introducing a new app that’s initially only available for iOS.

Cook delivered a message that’s similar to the one he’s given to consumer app makers: While Android may have a large number of devices running Google’s mobile operating system, Apple’s devices form a more coherent market that’s easier to build apps for.

As Levie and Cook were on stage, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced at a nearby event that Android had crossed 1.4 billion users. 

“You don’t want a fragmented ecosystem, you want tools that make it easy to develop, you want someone who works with the major players in the industry,” Cook said. He didn’t mention Google by name, but he’s criticized Android frequently in the past for its fragmentation across varying versions of the operating system. And it’s a fair jab to point out that Google isn’t always the easiest company to partner with.

Still, Apple has a long history of going it alone—and striking partnerships which wither on the vine. So Cook needs to talk the talk, as frequently as possible. It’s hard to think of a better way to do that then deploying his star power at a partner’s event.

Photo by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite