Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with Bloomberg Businessweek for a two-hour, nearly 9,000 word interview that offers a detailed look at what it's like to run Apple, how Cook views Apple's legal battles ("it's awkward") and how Apple innovates.
Though Cook noted that Apple has opted to be "more transparent about some things," he was typically tight-lipped about what lies in store for the tech behemoth. Still, there were a few hints. Let's dive in.
Get Ready For Jony Ive To Design Your Phone's Body And Its Brain
With Apple senior vice president of iOS software Scott Forstall out of the company, Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, will now have his hands on both Apple hardware and software.
"Jony...who I think has the best taste of anyone in the world and the best design skills, now has responsibility for the human interface," Cook said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek's interview. "So it’s saying, Jony has done a remarkable job leading our hardware design, so let’s also have Jony responsible for the software and the look and feel of the software, not the underlying architecture and so forth, but the look and feel."
Already there are rumors Ive will ditch Apple's skuemorphic design -- the linen textures, stitcher leather and other real-life textures -- in favor of a cleaner, simpler look. And would be software designers the world over have pitched in their own wish lists for iOS, including this recent re-imagining of the iPhone lock screen.
The Apple TV Is Still A Unicorn. But An Interesting One.
The words "Apple TV" were mentioned only once during the interview, and then, by interviewer Josh Tyrangiel. The device was conspicuously absent from the list of products Cook rattled off when Tyrangiel asked him "how many products" Apple currently has.
Last month, a Wall Street Journal story characterized Apple's effort to make inroads into the living room with Apple TV as "stalled," citing "people familiar with the matter." But in Cook's interview with Brian Williams for Rock Center with Brian Williams, Cook called television "an area of intense interest."
In a new era where Apple's every move and release has been predicted by tech blogs with increasing accuracy, the Apple television set (or "iTV") remains the single most mysterious Apple product. We've known with certainty that Apple has been tinkering with the television for over a year now, ever since the late Steve Jobs revealed to biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "finally cracked" what bugged him about the modern TV experience; since then, however, analysts, pundits and tech soothsayers have been forced to make wild predictions about what this "cracking" could possibly mean.
Integration with Siri, a web camera for FaceTime video calling, iPad/iPhone as remote controls and connection to the iTunes media library are all commonly referenced as possible features. Apple is also rumored to be negotiating with television networks to offer channels a la carte (rather than bundled together in cable or satellite packages) so that viewers could pay only for those networks they wanted to watch. The negotiations, according to multiple reports, have not been productive thus far, as Apple has faced entrenched opposition from a still-profitable cable industry.
When Apple Has A VP Of Innovation, You'll Know It's In Trouble
In discussing his thoughts on creativity and innovation, Cook observed that the two do not belong to a "process" and are "something you can’t flowchart out."
He added, "A lot of companies have innovation departments, and this is always a sign that something is wrong when you have a VP of innovation or something. You know, put a for-sale sign on the door."
Apple Wants To Apply Apple-Style Innovation To Making Factories Better
Cook is credited with overhauling Apple's manufacturing to make it far more streamlined, profitable and efficient, and he emphasized that Apple is trying to apply the same detailed approach to ensuring workers are treated fairly and factories are audited to be sure they're complying with labor laws. The key, he said, has been transparency at a "micro level," noting that Apple has published " working hours for almost a million people across our supply chain." Apple also let Nightline into Apple supplier factories earlier this year.
"Our transparency in supplier responsibility is an example of recognizing that the more transparent we are, the bigger difference we would make," said Cook. "We want to be as innovative with supply responsibility as we are with our products. That’s a high bar."
2012 has seen another string of troubling reports from Apple supplier's factories. In September, for example, the Shanghai Daily claimed that students were being pulled from school and forced to work on the iPhone 5 against their will; in October, Foxconn also admitted that it had wrongly used underage workers in its factories.
Apple has also been criticized for its choice of the Fair Labor Association as its main auditor, with one thinktank criticizing the FLA for being far too easy on Apple and Foxconn in its assessment of factory conditions.
... And Bring Some Manufacturing Jobs To The U.S.
As Cook also told Brian Williams in an interview with the TV host, Apple will be producing a line of its Mac computers in the U.S. in 2013.
"We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it," Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek. "It will happen in 2013. We’re really proud of it. We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it’s broader because we wanted to do something more substantial. So we’ll literally invest over $100 million."
Don't Expect Apple To Start Making Cars
They're going to stay extremely focused on a small number of products, Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek.
"That’s a part of our base principle, that we will only do a few things. And we’ll only do things where we can make a significant contribution," said Cook. "I don’t mean financially. I mean some significant contribution to the society at large. You know, we want to really enrich people’s lives at the end of the day, not just make money. Making money might be a byproduct, but it’s not our North Star."'
Apple VP Phil Schiller recently admitted during the Apple/Samsung trials that the company had discussed designing and building a car, though he then dismissed it as "crazy stuff."
And Don't Expect Apple Products To Get Much Cheaper
Apple isn't trying to compete on price, Cook noted.
"So when we can do great products and achieve a great price, we feel great. But what we wouldn’t do is say, 'We’ve got to have something for this price, and then let’s see what we can do for it.' That’s not how we think," Cook explained. "We think about the product and making a great product that we want to use. When we can do that and achieve another price point, that’s great."
Cook, who made a whopping $378 million in 2011, said the $329 iPad Mini "isn’t an expensive product," in his estimation.
Some, of course, disagree, with Gizmodo and Business Insider both blasting Apple for the price of the iPad Mini compared to competitors like the Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7. Apple execs like Cook and Phil Schiller have found themselves defending the $329 price tag ever since the small tablet's introduction.