Tim Cook goes under the spotlight at D11

Tim Cook hasn’t been the public recluse that the late Steve Jobs managed to create, but nevertheless a slight hint of the secrecy that Jobs managed to produce is still present at the company. Tim Cook has been a more approachable and open CEO than the latter and therefore if you had been keeping an eagle eye on the developments at Apple you could have fully predicted the rehearsed lines that he retold at the D11 conference with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher.

The annual conference held since 2003 has been a platform for companies and developers to highlight upcoming innovations and work that could shape industry. All Things D Conference is somewhat of a questioning time for leaders in industry, at time where they can almost be held accountable. Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher have the tendency to be able to drag any minuscule piece of information, even though it may be irrelevant out of the questioned. We have heard from Cook on more than one occasion at the conference and things were a bit awkward following the death of the late co-founder, Steve Jobs. But in his own way – Cook field the role nicely. But if you believed he was to be a more fluid and less secretive CEO then think again. If you predicted that Cook would discuss:

  • The unveiling of a new iPhone
  • Wearable iWatch technology
  • IOS 7 even…

You were sadly wrong.

tim-cookCook did not allude to any new launch of products at the conference, neither did he mention the upcoming Apple iOS 7 launch. Cook did however discuss many other interesting topics that have plagued Cupertino since his arrival, and he seemed to have a reasonable answer for most of them. Less iconic than the formidable Steve Jobs and his voice a little more monotone – it was unlikely to be a thrilling interview – but nonetheless it was definitely interesting. The questions came thick and fast and Mossberg and Swisher planted questions that could lead to a slight slip and possible reveal of upcoming products – but Cook didn’t fall for this.

Walt Mossberg plunged in with the killer question about Google Glass and tried to extrapolate the thoughts that Cupertino had on the rivals. Cook felt strongly that ‘Glasses’ weren’t the future and hesitated at an answer. But then said:

“I wear glasses because I have to. I can’t see without them. People generally want glasses to reflect their fashion, their style and so forth. From a mainstream point of view, this is difficult.”

The audience and interviewers quickly picked up on this and questioned Cook on the likelihood of a “wrist” gadget instead, to which Cook replied:  “I think the wrist is natural.” This massive drop in the water for Apple has practically, in itself, sealed the possibility that Apple will launch an iWatch. Cook didn’t progress any further and for good reasons but made judgement upon their rivals attempts and positioned it as though Apple could do better.

When discussing topical current affairs Tim Cook seemed as though his feathers had been ruffled. Surprisingly he gave a cheerful outlook upon the ‘tax debacle’ that had caused Apples’ Senate summoning last week but offered it as a chance for Apple to tell their side of the story. Cook continually defended their tax record and even suggested Apples’ method was good for the US economy.

“Our effective tax rates is 30.5%. We pay $6 billion — that’s more than anyone in the U.S.! We aren’t in there saying we should pay less — in fact, we may end up paying more”

Where the water turned a little sour was when it came to lawsuits and Samsung, it was inevitable that it would crop up – but Cook had prepared a statement that tried to fend off the howling wolves. Samsung and Apple have been at each others throats with lawsuits since 2009 and now we have seen the two bubble up together and move further apart. The Verge’s Nilay Patel posed this fact towards Cook: “You sued Samsung first, and you just added the Galaxy S4…”

Cook had previously defended the allegations of mitigating competition via lawsuits as absurd and their legal battle was more about “values”. Cook condemned the fact that this was the case, the matter of the fact was that Cook believed that Apple’s battle with Samsung was more than a childish hate: “Generally, I don’t like lawsuits any more than I did last year. But, I don’t want copying.” The belief stems back to the basis of iOS and the first idea that Steve Jobs believed Android to be a copy of iOS and the iPhone. Jobs swore to destroy Android as a rip off and now he is gone, it looks like he left this task to Cook to complete.

The event didn’t go without any major news, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, is to move to Apple to work on environmental affairs, but this isn’t exactlyapple-ceo-tim-cook-emerges-from-steve-jobs-shadow-1-311800exciting. Cook only mentioned iOS in passing with the Mac. He had clearly not committed to any solid news and said that Apple wanted to develop iOS under new leadership to be more like Mac OS X. Cook only blew his own trumpet occasionally and celebrated the fact that: “Pages is the most popular paid app of all time on iPad.”

If you wanted answers behind Apple’s fluctuating stock price, updates on Foxconn conditions or any solid reveal of an upcoming Apple TV – here was not the place. In some ways this amuses me as the rumours you find online tend to provide more detail than Tim Cook ever does. That seemed a general theme of the interview, as Apple fluctuates and competition grows the company still remains true to its core beliefs – they weren’t scared or pushed into announcing any products early, although Maps was an arguable case. On the subject of Maps, Cook added that the company had:

“made many, many improvements over the last several months,”

Cook didn’t elaborate any further and this is where the buck stopped. He covered details we could have almost certainly guessed and left a lot to be answered at WWDC on June 10th. We hope that unlike at All Things D, Cook instead of just telling us ‘Apple has amazing products coming’ actually shows us some real hardware at WWDC. Either way the interview proved that Apple isn’t dead in the water just yet and the company may still be a unexpected figure in the race for top dog.