Apple’s Tim Cook grilled at All Things Digital conference opening

Apple’s Tim Cook grilled at All Things Digital conference opening

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers opening keynote at All Things Digital Conference

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook turned to the seemingly more hospitable stage of the All Things Digital technology conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, one week after facing a congressional grilling on the company’s tax practices.

But the questions from Wall Street Journal personal technology columnist Walter Mossberg and All Things D co-executive editor Kara Swisher on the first day of the D11 conference were no easier. The opening salvo: whether Apple — which has been “beaten up” by governments, seen its stock price slump and confronted with stiff competition from the likes of Samsung — has lost its cool.
“Absolutely not,” Cook responded.
As he did last week in Washington, when he responded to questions about the company’s use of Irish subsidiaries to shelter billions of dollars in income from U.S. taxes, Cook calmly sought to cast Apple in its most favorable light.
Aside from the sheer volume of smartphones and tablets sold — 85 million iPhones and 42 million iPads in the first half of the fiscal year — Cook said customers love their Apple products (“the customer satisfaction ratings on these products is off the charts”), which they use a lot. Indeed, Apple’s smartphones and tablets account for 59% of Web traffic, he said.
“Our north star is always on making the best products,” Cook said. “So we always come back to that. We want to do the best phone, the best tablet, the best PC, the best MP3 player, and I think we’re doing that.”
Cook adhered to Apple’s storied secretiveness when pressed to divulge information about what game-changing products the company might have in store for consumers — in the form of the long-rumored Apple television, wearable computing or even an iPhone with a bigger screen.
The current Apple TV — an Internet-connected device that enables users to access online video services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, as well as to rent movies and TV shows through the iTunesstore — is slowly gaining traction with consumers, Cook said. After years of selling “a few hundred thousand” Apple TVs, sales have reached 13 million — with half of those coming in the last year.
“Many of us would agree there’s lots of things about the TV experience that can be better,” Cook said. “We answered some of those, not all of those, with Apple TV.”
Cook stopped short of saying when — or whether — Apple plans to offer a TV, other than to say this is an area of “incredible interest” to the Cupertino, Calif., company.
“It’s not an experience that I think very many people love,” Cook said of the livingroom TV. “It’s not an experience that you would say has been brought up to date for this decade. It’s still an experience that’s too much like it was 10 years ago, in many cases 20 years ago.”
Cook said he also is intrigued by the blossoming field of wearable computing as an area that’s “ripe for exploration.” It’s another milestone in the post-PC era that began with the proliferation of smartphones, and accelerated with the advent of tablet computers.
The Apple executive seemed to dismiss glasses — though he omitted mentioning Google Glass by name — as something other than a mainstream proposition, because people want their glasses to be light, unobtrusive and reflective of their fashion sense.
Devices worn on the wrist, such as the Nike FuelBand, which measures movement, hold more potential, he said. 
“For something to work here, you first have to convince people it’s so incredible that they want to wear it,” Cook said.
Asked about his appearance last week before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Cook portrayed it as an opportunity to argue for a simplified tax code for businesses. He said it’s time to gut the dense tax code, which is 7,500 pages long, and set a lower rate that would allow U.S.-based multinational corporations to bring home a greater share of their offshore profits.
“It’s a Band-Aid and paperclip kind of thing,” Cook said of the tax code. “Over the years, Congress kept Band-Aiding it, instead of sort of saying it’s time to trash it and go back to something simpler.”
Cook disagreed with characterizations of the Senate hearing as an Apple “love-fest.”
“Sitting in a witness chair, you don’t necessarily have that feeling,” Cook said. He added: “I think it was great to be part of the process, great to tell our story. I hope it ends up helping the reform question.”

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