• Tim Cook Talks About Apple's Future

    Tim Cook is Apple's second-in-command, the guy to whom Steve Jobs handed the reins of the company when he was sick last year. If - or when - Jobs decides to retire, it'll most likely be Cook who runs Apple. He's a gray corporate type as opposed to Steve Jobs's too-much-coffee-man personality, but he is considered one of the best managers in the industry. So when it was time for Apple to face the financial world, of course it was Cook who went, rather than Jobs. Cook didn't call people names in the meeting, but he did lay out Apple's plans in a way that the money people like. No bombshells were dropped, but he did indicate that the single-carrier relationship with AT&T was likely to continue, that the A4 chipset would be at the center of Apple's plans, and that the company was sticking with Mac OS X for the foreseeable future.

    In a sit-down with David Bailey, an analyst with investment firm Goldman Sachs, Cook sang the praises of Apple's flagship iMac desktop computer, which he called "very key," adding that "it will continue to be very key." The iMac's sales have really propelled Apple's growth during the bad economy: it has sold faster than the average computer market in all but one quarter in the past year and a half. Noting that Apple sold 10 million Macs last year in a market where people bought 300 million PCs Cook said the sky is the limit for the iMac. "I think people will continue to want a very gorgeous, large screen, all-in-one, simple to use, very elegant machine," he said, "and we're going to continue to deliver it."

    The iPhone and iPod touch are also bringing Apple big money, with iPod touch sales alone doubling since last year. Cook referred to the iPhone as a "runaway hit," and said that the app market was a "virtuous cycle," with more app sales bringing more developers to the platform and driving even more sales. With Apple poised to release the third iPhone OS-based product line, Bailey was curious if the company was moving away from Mac OS X. Cook made it clear that both platforms figured large in Apple's future plans. "What you're seeing from Apple is that the Mac OS is hugely scaleable," Cook said. "That's a huge competitive advantage... It allows us to innovate at an enormously fast speed with many fewer people." He said Apple would continue making its own chips rather than buying them from other people, saying they "had the best knowledge of what we wanted the silicon to do." he said. He noted that Apple had a long history designing its own chipsets, recalling that when Macs were based on the Motorola PowerPC, "Apple always personally crafted the northbridge and southbridge chipset, and so it's not new to us."

    Regarding the latest addition to Apple's lineup, Cook revealed that he's been using the iPad for six months now and - in line with what a number of pundits who have gotten hands on time with the new device (even those who were initially disappointed) have reported - Cook gushed that "the experience is absolutely incredible." He asserted what has been the party line since the iPad announcement, which is the only reason people buy netbooks is the price, and that people quickly tire of dealing with the tiny computers. "When they play with the iPad and experience the magic of using it... I have a hard time believing they're going to go for a netbook," he said.

    Cook said that Apple will be selling the iPad through its direct sales channels, such as its online and Apple Stores, and indirect channels such as the Apple Retail outlets at Best Buy stores and Apple premium resellers outside the US. He made no reference to AT&T selling the devices directly, but indicated that the retail plans could change over time, saying "where it goes and how fast it goes, we'll see." He did indicate that Apple will be opening close to 50 stores this year, including its first Apple Store in Shanghai and a new one in London that he said would be "jaw dropping."

    Cook reaffirmed Apple's allegiance to AT&T in the US, saying that having a close relationship with just one carrier lets Apple "innovate and work with that carrier on a feature that would be difficult for multiple carriers to provide," such as Visual Voicemail which Apple and AT&T worked on before the original iPhone shipped. He said Apple made its deals "on a country-by-country basis," noting that there are different sorts of relationships between carriers and their customers in the nearly 100 countries in which the iPhone is available.

    Cook also referred to Apple TV as a "hobby…" but didn't say whose hobby it was. "We're continuing to invest in it because our gut tells us there's something there," he said, but averred that Apple has no interest in making TVs. "Today, the go-to-market model for Apple TV is very difficult," he said, "because it would seem that that go-to-market model would lead to the TV. And we have no interest in being in the TV market."
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