Lest there be any doubt that Tim Cook is fully in the driver seat as Apple, he demonstrated a cool confidence, sense of humor and vast knowledge of the inner workings of the company he took over from Steve Jobs here at the D10 conference. During a wide-ranging interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, Cook criticized Microsoft’s convergence strategy with Windows 8, shared what we learned from Steve Jobs (including how to pull a 180) and whether Facebook integration is coming in iOS. Cook said “stay tuned,” which sounds promising.
Here’s the highlights of this very engaging conversation, which also covers the patent wars, what’s next for Apple TV, and why Cook is so passionate about philanthropy. One thing’s for sure: Cook knows exactly what he wants to reveal and how, and what he prefers to keep close to the vest. In fact, Cook says Apple is doubling down on product secrecy. Seriously.
On the State of Apple
It’s an incredible time to be at Apple. The juices are flowing. We have some incredible things coming out.
We’ve had some decent quarters. (Definite sense of humor there.) Over 70 + million people have iPhones. But the iPad has been unbelievable. I’ve never seen a product in technology that consumers and business and education loved. And people of all ages.
We’re just in the first inning. It’s only been two years.
On Microsoft’s Windows 8 Strategy
You’re pulling all of the leg weight of the PC market. You wind up with something that’s very similar to what tablets were ten years ago.
The more you look at combining the tablet and the PC the more the baggage from the past effects the product. If you force them together the tablet and PC can’t be as good as they can be.
I learned a lot from Steve. Those were the saddest days of my life. The sadness was replaced by a determination to continue the journey. I learned that focus is key. You can do only so many things great and cast aside everything else.
Owning the technology is very important.
Also learned that you need to do things great. Not just good or very good. Apple has a culture of excellence that’s so unique and special. I’m not going to witness or permit the change of it. It’s not something you can replicate.
What’s Changed After Jobs
When Steve Jobs called me to his house we talked about how Disney changed after Walt Disney died. Steve Jobs told me never ask what he would do. Just do what’s right. The brilliance of Jobs is that you would forget that he would do 180-degree on a position. It was a gift of Steve Jobs. It takes courage to say “I was wrong.”
On the Importance of Philanthropy
My belief on philanthropy. To whom much is given much is expected. We let the employee decide. I think we can do even more. I feel really strongly about it.
The dividend thing. The truth has been very successful. We’re continue to invest in R&D. We have a little bit left over. And we’re going to share it.
On Manufacturing Apple Products in the U.S.
We’re going to double down on secrecy on products. But other things that we’re going to do we’ll be really transparent on. All the work we’re doing with manufacturing. We hope people copy that. We’re showing a level of care.
Tim Cook wants an Apple product to be made in the U.S., and he emphasized that some parts are being made here now. The engine for the iPhone and the iPad are built in the U.S. There has to be an education change to bring back some of this.
On Mobile App Innovation
Cook stressed that there are hundreds of thousands of people developing apps in the U.S. now, which could be seen as a way of pivoting the manufacturing question.
“It’s a pain in the ass.” It’s important that Apple be a developer for the world. We can take all of energy and all of our care and finish the painting and have someone else put their name on it. The worst thing to happen if you’re an engineer is to have your work ripped off.
Cook says the patent system is broken in terms of standards-essential patents, because the owner of it has the responsibility to license it on a fair basis. Cook used the ability to connect to a 3G network as an example. He says that companies typically ask for obscene licensing fees with the understanding that it will lead to an injuction.
Ultimately, the whole issue is a time suck and overhead for Apple.
The momentum right now is with iPhone and Android. But that could change. The smartphone revolution is still in the early stages. Not a good sign that Cook called Windows Phone Windows Mobile, but a lot of people still do that.
Making More Than One iPhone or iPad
Apple might do it, but there are benefits to having one phone with one screen size and one resolution. Walt Mossberg tried to nudge Cook by reminding him that there are different iPods.Who knows what we’ll do in the future.
We’re not a hobby kind of company. But we’ve stuck in this. Last year we sold 2.8 million. This year in first 6 months we sold 2.7 million Apple TVs. This is an area of intense interest. The customer satisfaction with that product is off the charts. We’re going to keep pulling this string and see where it takes us. Many people would say this is an area of their live that they’re not pleased with. We would ask “Can we control the chief technology?” And “could we make a product that we want?”
On Facebook Relationship
Mossberg asks why he can’t share via Faceook on iOS devices. Cook said stay tuned.
Mossberg challenged Cook on Siri’s beta status and the fact that it simply doesn’t work all the time. Cook’s answer: Customers love it. It’s one of the most popular features of iPhone 4S. But there’s more that it can do. We have a lot of people working on this. The breadth will apparently improve. (We have plenty of ideas.) By the way, the S in the iPhone 4S was supposed to stand for Siri, according to Cook.
On Wearable Computing
During the closing Q&A session, Tim Cook answered a question I asked about wearable computing and where that space is going. I mentioned that there were several smart watch makers vying for consumers’ attention and that Google had generated interest with its Project Glass. Cook said that there’s some companies doing some interesting things in the space, but for a product to be successful it really has to make an impact in people’s lives. It can’t just tell you something. Cook used the Nike FuelBand as an example, which encourages users to exercise more.