Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, seeking to quell concerns about the company’s ability to innovate in consumer electronics, said his staff “has several more game changers” in the pipeline.
The iPhone maker has “some incredible plans,” Cook said Tuesday in an onstage interview at the D: All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. He singled out television and wearable computing as areas of interest.
Apple hasn’t released a new product since October, turning up pressure on Cook to debut something fresh to reignite sales growth. Less than two years after succeeding Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Cook’s tenure has been marked more by controversies — including criticism of the company’s tax practices and labor standards in China — than by blockbuster gadgets. Since September, he’s had to contend with a stock slide.
“What we have to do is focus on products,” Cook said. “If we do that right, if we make great products that enrich people’s lives, then the other things will happen.”
In his clearest indication yet that Apple is considering electronics that can adorn the body, Cook said that wearable computing could be a “profound area,” and that the wrist is particularly “interesting.”
“What’s most interesting is that Tim Cook spent much time talking about the future of wearable devices,” said Kuo Mingchi, an analyst covering the Apple supply chain at KGI Securities Co. in Taipei. “Wearable devices would complete the Apple ecosystem, yet the technology is not yet mature enough.”
Cook said such devices as Google Inc.’s Glass, a computer for the eyes, might struggle to go mainstream.
“People that do wear them generally want them to be light, to be unobtrusive,” Cook said of eyeware. “They probably want them to reflect their fashion.”
Apple has a “grand vision” for television, which remains an area of interest, Cook said. It has sold more than 13 million units of the Apple TV set-top box, exceeding internal expectations, Cook said.
The iPhone maker’s stock has fallen 37 percent from a record in September through yesterday and 17 percent this year amid questions about whether the company can unveil a device to match the success of the iPhone and iPad. The company posted its first profit decline in a decade in the most recent quarter and said a growth slowdown will persist until new products debut later this year.
Apple will provide a glimpse of new software at its annual developer conference, which starts June 10, including a redesign of iOS, the mobile-operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. It will be the first peek at the direction of new products under Jonathan Ive, whom Cook put in charge of design vision. A new iPhone isn’t projected to debut until at least September.
The interview follows Cook’s appearance last week before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which issued a report that said Apple used a web of subsidiaries to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes.
“When you get a little larger, you get more attention,” Cook said. “It comes with the territory.”
Cook reiterated in yesterday’s interview that the corporate tax code is outdated and needs to be overhauled to encourage companies such as Apple to bring more cash back to the U.S.
He also touted Apple’s efforts to make environmentally- friendly devices. The company has hired Lisa Jackson, the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to lead its efforts, Cook said.
Apple has made nine acquisitions in the current fiscal year, and expects to do more, Cook said.
The company would consider a large purchase if it could help create great products. “We’re not currently looking at a big one, but we’re not opposed to doing that if it makes sense,” he said.
Jobs was more involved than Cook in the minutia of product development and marketing. Cook, a supply-chain and sales executive, has delegated those responsibilities to executives such as Ive, Internet-services head Eddy Cue, marketing chief Phil Schiller, and technologies Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield. Scott Forstall departed as mobile-software chief last year in a management shakeup designed to foster product cooperation.
The changes have helped make the company more collaborative, Cook said, without mentioning Forstall by name.
Cook said that while his style differs from that of Jobs, the two share a vision for maintaining Apple’s culture.
“The most important things are the same,” Cook said.
Apple’s stock-price decline has been “frustrating,” Cook said in the interview conducted by Kara Swisher and Walter Mossberg of website AllThingsD, which organized the conference.
“It’s been frustrating for investors and all of us,” Cook said. “This too is not unprecedented.”