Apple CEO Tim Cook Teases the Next Tech 'Game Changers'
If Apple chief executive Tim Cook had one message yesterday, it was this: Apple hasn't given up on creating revolutionary products.
When Cook took the stage at the 11th annual D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., he surely knew that he would face questions about Apple's declining stock price and whether the company had lost its cool factor. Apple's stock value has fallen nearly 20 percent since the beginning of the year, seemingly due to doubts about whether the company can continue to produce innovative products on the level of the iPhone and iPad.
"The stock price has been frustrating," Cook admitted during an on-stage interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg of technology site AllThingsD. "It's been frustrating for our investors and all of us."
But Cook preferred to keep the focus on products, praising Apple's track record while tantalizing his audience with hints of what is to come. Among the company's areas of interest are television and wearable computing. "We have several more game changers in us," he said.
While he called wearable computing a "profound" new area for technology, Cook also criticized Google Glass, saying its obtrusiveness and lack of style would likely limit its mainstream appeal. Nevertheless, he said that in an increasingly post-PC world, wearable tech is an important part of the computing ecosystem that includes smartphones and tablets.
"I think what we have to do is focus on making the best products," Cook said. "And if we do that right, if we make great products that enrich people's lives, then the other things will happen."
Below are some highlights from Cook's interview:
- Apple wants to improve television. Apple has sold a total of 13 million Apple TV units, which are digital receivers that allow users to stream music and video from the internet, and about half of those were sold in the past year alone, Cook said. But he acknowledged that the TV-watching experience still needs to be "updated for this decade." The company has a "grand vision" for television, which is "an area of incredible interest to us," Cook said, while dodging questions about specific products or release dates.
- A wristwatch-like computing device may be in the works. The wrist, Cook suggested, is a more natural location for a wearable device than the face, but there are difficulties in marketing such a product. "For something to work [on the wrist], you first have to convince people it's so incredible that they want to wear it," Cook said, noting that few young people today are accustomed to wearing watches. He complimented the Nike FuelBand that tracks a wearer's physical activity and was wearing one himself at the conference. He hinted at the direction Apple might take, saying there is an opportunity in the market for a stellar product that, unlike the FuelBand, is able to perform multiple functions.
- Yahoo isn't the only hungry giant in Silicon Valley. Apple has acquired nine companies in fiscal year 2013, Cook said, and there are more to come. While the company isn't currently considering a large acquisition, Cook said he isn't opposed to doing one if it would help Apple create great products.
- Cook stood his ground on taxes. Last week, Cook spoke to the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations regarding claims that Apple was using legal loopholes to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes. At the D11 conference, he said the corporate tax code needs "comprehensive reform" to encourage U.S.-based corporations to repatriate their overseas revenue. "For multinationals, the right approach would be simplicity," he said, adding that he would like to see Congress "gut the [Internal Revenue] Code" -- removing loopholes and setting a "reasonable rate" for companies such as Apple.
Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.