Wearable Devices as seen by Apple’s Tim Cook

  • Wall Street Journal / BUSINESS
  • Updated May 28, 2013, 11:34 p.m. ET

Apple’s Cook Hints at Wearable Devices


Lots of studies show Google leap frogging Apple in the mobile hardware business. Doesn’t that concern CEO Tim Cook?  No, he says – and then goes on to explain why.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif.—Apple Inc. AAPL +1.60% Chief Executive Tim Cook, defending the company’s prowess as a tech trend-setter, hinted that wearable devices may play a role in future product plans.

George Stahl discusses Apple CEO Tim Cook’s opposition to Google Glass and other topics he sounded off on at AllThingsD’s D11 tech conference. Photo: Getty Images.

Mr. Cook, speaking during Tuesday’s opening interview at the D: All Things Digital conference, also disclosed that the company had hired Lisa Jackson, who served a controversial stint as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to oversee the company’s environmental policies.

Ms. Jackson stepped down as EPA head earlier this year. President Barack Obama credited the EPA under Ms. Jackson for making significant progress in cleaning up pollution and taking steps to protect public health. Republican leaders and some industry groups said EPA regulations under Ms. Jackson’s tenure hurt job growth.

In a statement provided by Apple, Ms. Jackson said, “I’m incredibly impressed with Apple’s commitment to the environment and I’m thrilled to be joining the team.”

Most of Mr. Cook’s speech was dedicated to defending Apple’s prowess as a tech trend-setter, amid recent complaints that the Silicon Valley company has failed to introduce any groundbreaking products lately.

“We have several more game changers in us” that the company has been “working on for a while,” Mr. Cook said at the event.

Mr. Cook praised devices such as Nike Inc.’s NKE -0.31% FuelBand, an activity tracker worn on the wrist. He said such wearable products “could be a profound area for technology,” while expressing less excitement about Google GOOG +0.98%Glass, Google Inc.’s high-tech eyeglasses that serve as a kind of heads-up display to view Internet content. He said it’s “tough to see” Google’s product having mass-market appeal.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Apple is experimenting with designs for a watch-like device that would perform some functions of a smartphone, according to people briefed on the effort.

Mr. Cook opened his on-stage interview at the event with a barrage of statistics regarding the performance and user satisfaction of Apple’s products like the iPhone and iPad, and also hinted that the company has more offerings in TV up its sleeve.

He spent much of his time striking back at the company’s recent challenges, which include questions about its tax policies and stiff competition from rivals such asSamsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE +2.12% But none of the questions is bigger than whether Apple can keep up the pace of product innovation for which the company has become known in recent years.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talked to Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at the D11 conference about why Apple only makes one iPhone, and doesn’t want to make a “phablet.”

Worries about Apple losing its cool have weighed on its shares, which ended trading Tuesday at $441.44, about 37% below a September high of $705.07.

Mr. Cook acknowledged that the company’s stock price has been disappointing. “The stock price has been frustrating—it’s been frustrating for investors and all of us,” he said.

The Apple chief, closing in on two years as CEO, said the company ended last year with an “unprecedented number of new products,” including a smaller version of the iPad tablet computer, a new type of Mac laptop with a high-resolution screen, and an overhauled version of its iTunes digital-entertainment software.

Apple’s been rumored to be mulling a move into the wearble computing space for years now. What does Apple CEO Tim Cook think of the space and early entrants like Google Glass? He talked to Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg onstage at D11.

Mr. Cook also hinted that Apple’s iOS software powering its iPhone and iPad, and the separate operating software for its Mac computers, are set for a major upgrade, to be discussed at Apple’s software-developer conference in June.

He bristled at statistics that show Apple’s smartphones and tablets are losing sales ground to those powered by Google’s Android software. He said Apple believes it’s more important for its users to be happier than customers of competing devices. “Winning has never been about making the most,” Mr. Cook said.

Still, more than seven of every 10 new smartphones sold world-wide in the first three months of the year were powered by Google’s Android operating software. Apple’s market share in smartphones was 18.2%, down from 22.5% a year earlier, according to research firm Gartner Inc. IT +0.49%

As he did last week with a Senate panel probing Apple’s tax practices, Mr. Cook urged for a simplification of U.S. corporate-tax rules. Congressional investigators recently said Apple set up a tangle of tax-exempt foreign subsidiaries in order to pay little or no corporate taxes on $74 billion over the past four years.

The congressional investigators haven’t said Apple broke the law, but they said the company was particularly aggressive in using corporate-tax loopholes. Mr. Cook took issue on Tuesday with the word “loopholes,” and said Apple would be fine paying a little more in taxes if the tax code were simpler.

Mr. Cook responded to a question about growing government scrutiny of Apple, over issues such as allegations it abused its market power in areas such as digital books. Mr Cook replied by listing what he said was Apple’s “incredible work” in environmental issues, including efforts to eliminate toxins from its tech gadgets, and committing to using renewable energy resources.

Ms. Jackson will help coordinate those and other efforts at Apple, Mr. Cook said.

The Wall Street Journal and All Things Digital share a parent company, News Corp

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