Apple’s Cook says focus remains on products
CEO does not see himself as replacement for Steve Jobs.
By Dan Gallagher
Apple (AAPL) Chief Executive Tim Cook said he doesn't see himself as a replacement for the late Steve Jobs, nor does he see the iconic consumer electronics company moving into new areas like media content, or owning a wireless network.
In a wide-ranging interview on the stage of the D10 conference Tuesday night, Cook discussed matters like the company's massive overseas manufacturing network, as well the company's views on the TV business -- though he stopped short of sharing any details of new products Apple may be planning.
Cook's interview was part of the opening session of the D10 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. The conference is sponsored by AllThingsD, a technology blog owned by News Corp., which also owns MarketWatch.
Cook took over as CEO of Apple last August, as co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down just two months before dying of cancer.
"I've never viewed my role as to replace him," Cook said on the stage. "Steve was an original, and I don't think there's another one of those being made. It's not my goal in life. I am who I am. I'm focused on that."
He maintained, however, that Jobs told him specifically to never ask "What would Steve do?" He also shared that Jobs himself was a master at letting go of the past, as the famously hot-tempered CEO could change his mind suddenly about a product decision and move ahead.
"He would flip on something so fast, that you would forget that he was the person taking a 180-degree position on that issue the day before," Cook said. "I saw it daily. He wouldn't even remember it."
During the interview by AllThingsD co-editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, Cook was quizzed about a wide range of other issues. He said Apple would likely "double down" on its legendary nature of secrecy around product development, but would become more transparent on other matters, including its global supply-chain and its efforts to improve conditions for workers in the factories that make the company's products -- most of which are in China.
Cook noted the company's efforts to audit its network of suppliers, and to publish the results of those audits on a monthly basis. He said Apple has been most focused during this year on "putting overtime down," in terms of capping the hours that workers spend on the job floor.
"We are measuring the work habits of 700,000 people. No one else is doing that," he said, adding that he wants more of Apple's peers "to copy us" in that area.
He also said he would consider moving more manufacturing jobs for Apple products to the U.S., noting that many vital components such as chipsets and glass for smartphone screens are already produced here. But he added that the U.S. lacks much of the needed infrastructure for a large manufacturing base anymore.
"The truth is, if we called a meeting of tool and die makers based in the U.S., we wouldn't fill this room. In China, you can fill several cities with tool and die makers," he said.
Cook gave no details about new products that may be under development. Apple will kick off its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 11 in San Francisco, at which it is expected to show off the latest versions of its Mac and iPhone operating systems. Analysts expect a new iPhone as well as an Apple-branded TV to come out later in the year.
Asked several times about Apple's plans for the TV space, Cook demurred on product details, but added that the AppleTV set-top box has already sold about 2.7 million units in the first half of its current fiscal year -- roughly on par with the total number sold for the entire year prior.
"We ask if we can we control the key technology. Can we make a significant contribution far beyond what others have done in this area. Can we make a product we ourselves would want, as we see ourselves as good proxies for others," Cook said of the company's thought process in looking at the TV space.
But he was dismissive of the idea of the company ever getting into the content business, in terms of producing shows or movies. He also reiterated past statements about how Apple does not typically buy "new revenue stream" with its M&A deals, preferring instead to focus on adding new talent or technology.
As far as Steve Jobs' legacy is concerned, Cook said Apple would remain focused on building "great products," rather than making a goal of a certain revenue or profit level.
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