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Cook: The only thing Apple won't do is release a lousy product

Lex Friedman | Feb. 13, 2013
Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs technology conference.

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage Tuesday at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference. Though--unsurprisingly--he spilled no Apple secrets, Cook did manage to leave room wide open for Apple to introduce a lower-priced iPhone, and reiterated some common company tropes about its focus and goals.

The future of the iPhone

Cook didn't address rumors about Apple prepping an inexpensive iPhone directly. What he did say was: "The only thing we'll never do is make a crappy product. ... That's the only religion that we have. We must do something great, something bold, something ambitious." Cook said that Apple has tried "to appeal to people that are more price sensitive with iPhone," pointing to the lowered prices for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S (which are free and $99, respectively, with two-year contracts). "In the December quarter ... we didn't have enough supply of iPhone 4 after we cut the price." That level of demand, Cook said, "surprised us... So we are making moves, or have made moves, to make things more affordable."."

He then pointed to Apple's product and pricing history. "If you take something like an iPod, the first one was $399; today you can go out and buy an iPod shuffle for $49." But, Cook said, "Instead of saying, 'How can we cheapen this iPod?', we said, 'How can we do a great product'" and get a lower price point.

Cook also looked to the common cry for Apple to make a cheaper Mac. "For years, people said, 'Why don't you have a Mac that's less than $500 or less than $1000? ... Frankly, we worked on this, but we concluded we couldn't do a great product, so we didn't." Instead, Cook said, "We invented iPad. So now all of a sudden have an incredible [computing] experience, and it starts at $329."

Screen plays

Cook spent some time discussing the question of whether the iPhone's screen size might get larger to match its competitors. He pointed out that the PC industry used to compete on two things: product specs and price. But when PC vendors touted who had the largest drive or the fastest processor, Cook said, they missed the point: "People want an Aha! moment," Cook said--a notion that can't be a bullet item on a spec sheet.

He said that while some competitors are focused on display size, Apple's focusing on many elements that are important for a display. He pointed to the OLED displays some vendors use, which Cook said offer "awful color saturation" which can make users unhappy.

"Apple sweats every detail," Cook said. "We want the best display. I think we've got it, I feel great about it... I'm not going to comment about what we're going to do in the future, because that releases the magic." In the end though, Cook said, customers care about "more than a simpler number" like inches in a screen's size.


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