Apple chief Timothy Cook unveils a new product: Himself
February 15, 2012 14:12 IST
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New York: When he was alive, Steven P Jobs, Apple's former chief executive, treated investors as if they were biohazards, rarely deigning to meet with them. The disdain was not mutual, as an Apple stock chart for the last 10 years shows.
Timothy D. Cook, Apple's new chief, showed on Tuesday how he planned to do things differently from his predecessor. Mr. Cook, who long handled the investor relations chores Mr. Jobs avoided, spoke at a Goldman Sachs conference on a wide range of topics, all the while displaying a bit more personality than he has in public presentations in the past. His appearance amounted to his most extensive public comments since he became chief of Apple in August, just weeks before the death of Mr. Jobs.
Mr. Cook devoted a significant part of a question-and-answer session with the Goldman analyst Bill Shope to addressing Apple's attitude about workplace conditions among its overseas suppliers, a topic that has begun to receive scrutiny after an investigative article in The New York Times last month. Mr. Cook said Apple had no tolerance for suppliers that violate Apple's labor and human rights standards. He called the use of under-age labor "abhorrent" and said that although it occurred rarely among Apple's partners, its complete elimination was a "top priority" for the company.
To help combat a more common violation at its suppliers, excessive working hours, Mr. Cook revealed that Apple every month will publish data on its Web site about the portion of its suppliers who are complying with Apple's workweek standards. He said that figure currently stands at 84 percent. Apple has typically included its findings on excessive work hours as part of an annual report detailing violations it discovered in the factories where its products are made, most of which are in China. The company will still publish that annual report.
Apple has begun stepping up its efforts to reveal more about the conditions in factories where iPads, iPhones and other Apple products are made. Apple said the first inspections of those factories by an outside group commenced on Monday, when a team from the Fair Labor Association visited a Foxconn factory in Shenzhen.
"We know people have a very high expectation of Apple," he said. "We have an even higher expectation of ourselves. Our customers expect us to lead and we will continue to do so."
Mr. Cook reiterated earlier predictions he has made about sales of tablets like the iPad eventually eclipsing those of conventional personal computers. He added acerbically that if a meeting were held of developers working on cool PC applications, no one might show up, while it would be tough to accommodate all of the iOS developers working on cool apps in one hotel ballroom.
Mr. Cook did not come bearing gifts for investors thirsting for more information about what Apple intends to do with its nearly $100 billion cash hoard, though he repeated previous comments he has made about actively discussing the matter with Apple's board, suggesting stock buybacks or dividends were distinct possibilities.
He offered only a tantalizing clue about bigger plans on the horizon for Apple in the television business. Mr. Cook played down the company's Apple TV product because it had not approached the magnitude of Apple's mobile phone, computer and tablet businesses. But he hinted that it might. "We've always thought there was something there and that if we kept following our intuition and kept pulling the string, we might find something that was larger," he said.
Mr. Cook was also asked about how his leadership of Apple might differ from that of Mr. Jobs. He said that Mr. Jobs "drilled" into all Apple employees how everything at the company should revolve around making great products, and that he wouldn't tamper with that. "Apple is this unique company, unique culture that you can't replicate," Mr. Cook said. "I'm not going to witness or permit the slow undoing of it."
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