Tim Cook: Apple products aren't just for the rich

Tim Cook: Apple products aren't just for the rich

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Apple’s Tim Cook has given a rare wide-ranging interview in which he defends the company’s record of expensive products, subtly rebukes Google for its lack of respect for users’ privacy, and reveals that Steve Jobs once spent $10m on creating an iPad textbook just to show he could.

Speaking to Fortune Magazine, Cook said that he felt the company’s reputation for expensive products was over-emphasised, noting that wouldn’t use the word “high-margin” to describe Apple.

“There’s a lot of companies that have much higher margins. We price for the value of our products. And we try to make the very best products. And that means we don’t make commodity kind of products. And we don’t disparage people that do; it’s a fine business model. But it’s not the business that we’re in,” Cook said.

“If you look across our product lines, you can buy an iPad today for under $300. You can buy an iPhone, depending upon which one you select, for in that same kind of ballpark. And so these are not for the rich. We obviously wouldn’t have over a billion products that are in our active installed base if we were making them for the rich because that’s a sizeable number no matter who’s looking at the numbers,” he added.

Cook’s words may appear oddly timed, given the expectation that Apple will launch its most expensive iPhone yet, believed to be called the iPhone X, at a press event on Tuesday. The phone will likely cost at least $1,000 in the US, compared to rivals like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, which is selling for $929.

Cook also used the interview to hammer home Apple’s long-running message that it, and only it, is a technology firm dedicated to preserving users’ privacy.

“We try to advocate for people’s privacy because we are living in a world where technology can do lots of things, but there’s things that it shouldn’t do. And so we try very hard to protect people’s privacy and security and hopefully keep some of these bad things at bay for them,” he said.

In its 10 years of existence, the iPhone has never had a major malware outbreak, a fact noted by security experts on the smartphone line’s 10th anniversary, and something Cook was keen to capitalise on.

Protesters carry placards outside an Apple store in Boston, 2016. Cook reiterated his commitment to user security in his interview with Fortune.



Protesters carry placards outside an Apple store in Boston, 2016. Cook reiterated his commitment to user security in his interview with Fortune. Photograph: Steven Senne/AP

“The importance of security is exponentially increasing,” he said. “And that’s because of all of the hacks, all of the reports of things that have gone on. You would be hard pressed to find very many people that haven’t had a problem I think, or heard of a problem from credit cards to whatever.”

Addressing credit cards in particular points to one area of opportunity for Apple: payments. With its Apple Pay service, it has achieved a small foothold in contactless retail transactions, and a larger one in in-app payments, but the company is set to push further, to person-to-person payments, with iOS 11, expected to be released in certain regions this week.

The memory of Steve Jobs is also very present in the interview. At one point, Cook readdresses one of Jobs’ most controversial decisions as chief executive, in not creating a charitable foundation under Apple’s name. Cook reviewed the choice in 2012, he says, and came to the same conclusion as Jobs had previously: better not do it at all than do it in a way that didn’t live up to Apple’s ethos.

“I looked at it in early 2012,” he said, “and I decided not to do it. And here’s why. When a company sets up a foundation, there is a risk, in my judgment, of the foundation becoming this other thing that is not connected to the company. It has a separate board of directors. They make reasonably independent decisions sometimes. It becomes a separate thing.

“I don’t want that for Apple. I want everybody involved. Because I think that the power that we bring, the things that we can do is because we’re stronger—it’s with our unity there. It’s when we put all of ourselves in it.”

Not every legacy from Jobs has carried over in quite the same way, however. Cook mentioned the co-founder and chief executive’s desire to transform the education market with the iPad, a goal that the company never quite achieved.

Jobs “saw what iPad could unleash, he wanted to get all the textbook guys on the iPad because he saw kids walking with these 50lbs of books, this little kid that weighs 50lbs trying to carry 50lbs of books. And also that the book was flat. That there was nothing exciting. So he went out and spent $10m on one textbook to show what was possible.”

Jobs’ multimillion dollar textbook was never released to the public, but in January 2012, three months after he died, the company revealed a stripped-down version of his plan: iBooks Textbooks, a partnership with the publishing industry to sell $15 high school textbooks for the iPad in the US.



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