At the D11 conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook once again took the stage to be interviewed by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. While most of the interview can be replicated by picking and reading 10 random Apple fanblog stories – there were still a number of very interesting things that warrant some closer scrutiny.
First and foremost, I personally find Tim Cook to be a more pleasurable interviewee than Steve Jobs; his Texas demeanour is friendly and approachable, whereas I found Jobs to be intimidating and cold. It certainly does put a different face on the huge corporation that is Apple. I’m starting with this seemingly insignificant point, because it’s a nice contrast to one of the things Cook talked about – something that really stood out to me the most.
Tim Cook focussed entirely on the United States. Every figure he gave, every statistic he boasted was a figure covering the US population. The rest of the world barely got a mention – which seems odd, considering the rest of the world makes up 95% of the world population. In fact, his attitude felt condescending – the rest of the world doesn’t use smartphones in the same way “we” do, so they don’t really count. “Globally, I think there are a lot of ‘smartphones’ that we’d consider feature phones, and the users use them like feature phones,” Cook said.
It almost seemed as if Cook just conceded the rest of the world to its competitors. There are large parts of the world coming online today or in the coming years that will never be able to afford Apple’s phones or even the expensive Android phones we buy. No, this market will be served almost exclusively by cheap Android phones. There will be a huge wave of current feature phone owners that will move to smartphones – and they will become Android users. Not Windows users, not Apple users – but Google users.
Moving on, Cook mentioned a few things that I found incredibly surprising, and that could really change the way Apple approaches the industry in the future. Most importantly, Cook announced something that will greatly impact the future of iOS, and will be welcomed by many, many iOS users the world over: more openness.
Cook stated that Apple will open up more iOS APIs to third parties. Mossberg extolled the virtues of Android allowing third parties to improve core aspects of the operating system, such as keyboard technology, which now run circles around whatever Apple has to offer. Third parties will be allowed to change more core aspects of iOS, Cook stated, but obviously not to the point of Android. This is great news for iOS users, but it will really depend on just how extensive this new openness will be.
Another interesting point is that Tim Cook specifically – without being asked – brought up something very interesting: Apple may make Android applications in the future. Someone from the audience asked about Apple making iCloud technologies available to other platforms, and Cook switched the conversation to Android applications specifically.
This is interesting, because I honestly have no idea what Apple could have to offer Android users. The only thing, perhaps, is some form of iTunes support – every other Apple application, e.g. the iWork suite, would just dilute iOS’ value. Cook specifically brought this one up by choice, and I’m wondering why.
On the topic of Google Glass, Cook was obviously quite dismissive. “I think there are some positive points in the product,” Cook told Mossberg and Swisher, “I think it’s probably more likely to appeal to certain vertical markets. […] I think from a mainstream point of view [glasses as wearable computing devices] are difficult to see. I think the wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural.”
The interview ended on a high note, as the penultimate question came from The Verge’s patent expert Niley Patel. I’m not going to spoil this one for you – Patel did an excellent job of poking massive holes in Cook’s reasoning, and it’s fun to watch the CEO of one of the world’s largest corporations squirm. I strongly advise you to sit through the entire interview to see this specific part.
All in all, the interview had some interesting aspects, but in general, the similarity between Cook’s cookie-cutter responses and whatever the popular Apple fanblogs publish is incredibly uncanny. It made it all a bit boring and predictable.