Apple Insights From Tim Cook's Talk At Goldman Sachs

According to the man in charge, Apple's innovation drive is at its "strongest ever."

Apple is not done innovating, CEO Tim Cook said today at the Goldman Sachs Conference. In general, he kept to his script, just as he did last year, revealing little extra detail about his company's plans. Here's Tim Cook on:

Apple's Innovation

"It's never been stronger. Innovation is so deeply embedded in Apple's culture." It's about "boldness, ambition, belief there aren't limits, a desire to make the very best products in the world."

Steve Jobs got credit for keeping Innovative ideas at the core of Apple, but even in his later years, some started to question whether the company was at the end of a long cycle of world-changing ideas and had entered into a phase of iteration. Cook's now taken pains to stress Apple's continued culture of innovation, and he said later that key execs like Jon Ive and Bob Mansfield will be tasked with pushing it further.

Acquisitions Of Small Companies

"Generally speaking we've been in many cases taken something that they're working on and move the skills to work on something else."

Apple recently bought a company with deep fingerprint recognition expertise, fueling debate about fingerprint access to future iPhones and even the mobile pay game.

Buying Large Companies

"We have looked at large companies. In each case, it didn't pass our test. Will we look at more? I think so. But we're disciplined and thoughtful, and we don't feel a pressure to go out and acquire revenue."

Stranger discussions on the Net right now are pondering if Apple should even buy the ailing Dell...but maybe buying a display maker like Sharp could be smarter. Cook's position doesn't seem to rule out these sorts of big buys, but it does downplay them.

The Shares Lawsuit

"I find it bizarre we find ourselves being sued for doing something that's good for shareholders. It's a silly sideshow, honestly. I think it would be a lot better use of funds to donate that time and money to a worthy cause."

Apple's cash pile is monumental, historic. Cook again underlined that it's almost extraneous to Apple's core functions as he all but swept aside the lawsuit brought by David Einhorn. It was an unusually passionate outburst from Cook. It's possible the company is irritated at the way its investors have been behaving.

The iTunes Ecosystem

"It's fueling an incredible economic gain for developers. We've paid over $8 billion to developers.... We don't look at the sale of a product as our last part of the relationship with the customer, it's the first."

We know Apple's been very carefully growing its iTunes/iCloud ecosystem around the world. Hooking Apple buyers into liking the look and feel of the services so they buy more products is key to the companies future.

Cheap iPhone Rumors

"We wouldn't do anything we wouldn't consider a great product.... Instead of saying how can we cheapen this iPod to get it lower, we said how can we do a great product, and we were able to do that. The same thing, but in a different concept in some ways."

The Apple rumor mill is still grinding away at the notion Apple will release a "cheap" iPhone in 2013 to address the developing world market and the pre-pay market. Cook didn't dismiss the idea outright, but instead reminded us that the iPod range did evolve, and that Apple moves cleverly when it sees an opportunity like this. A plastic iPhone may still be in the cards.

The iPad's Future Market

"The projection is that this is going to triple in four years. When you think about that, the actual number is 375 million, that's more PCs than are being sold around the world. The tablet is attracting people who have never owned a PC."

The iPad mini was, Cook pointed out, a way of addressing the market with a lower-price product that met user's needs. He also said it wasn't a question of worrying about cannibalization of other products. The iPad, it seems, may be become the next mainstay of Apple's growth--especially in developing markets.

His First Year As CEO

"I'm incredibly proud... I'm most proud of our employees.... I'm very proud that we're out front, that we have a spine on supply responsibility. I'm incredibly proud that we're doing heavy lifting with the environment."

In summary then, lots of this is as we expected, but it does keep the door open for some interesting new devices in 2013.

[Image via Wordle.net]

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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