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Tim Cook talks Android, larger-screened iPhones and more in wide-ranging interview


The Wall Street Journal this past Friday published a wide-ranging interview with Tim Cook where the Apple CEO touched on topics as varied as larger iPhone screens, Android and Lenovo's recent purchase of Motorola Mobility from Google.

First up, Cook was asked to address commonly held investor concerns that Apple isn't a growth company anymore. Cook explained that Apple over the past few years has experienced unprecedented hyper-growth. So while Apple's most recent year-over-year revenue increase wasn't as large as it was, say, four years ago, Cook believes that Apple is still a company with an upward trajectory.

We went from $65 billion to over $100 billion to $150 billion to $170 billion. These are historic, unprecedented numbers. I don't know any companies adding growth at that level. So when you say $14 billion to $15 billion compared to those numbers, it's clearly smaller and a smaller percentage, but, to put it in some context, that's like adding three Fortune 500 companies in a year. I think that's hard to say that's not a growth company.

Now there have been a lot of rumors lately indicating that Apple's next-gen iPhone may sport a bigger screen. When the Journal asked Cook if he's against such a move, Cook said that Apple is not, in any way, fundamentally opposed to the idea. Qualifying that remark, Cook explained that larger-screened devices often result in tradeoffs that affect the user experience.

What we've said is that until the technology is ready, we don't want to cross that line. That doesn't say we'll never do it. We want to give our customers what's right in all respects – not just the size but in the resolution, in the clarity, in the contrast, in the reliability. There are many different parameters to measure a display and we care about all those, because we know that's the window to the software.

Cook has said similar things before, emphasizing that Apple will never compromise the user experience just to get an iPhone with a bigger screen out into the marketplace. Though Cook didn't mention it here, he has previously brought up poor battery life as a reason why devices with larger displays often fail to deliver a best-in-class user experience.

One of the interview's more interesting exchanges centered on whether Apple's position in the smartphone market will be similar to the niche role it assumed in the PC market many years ago.

Cook's answer was on-point, and though critics like to claim he lacks the big picture outlook on technology that Steve Jobs had in spades, Cook has time and again demonstrated that he's much more than an operations whiz who became CEO by happenstance. Indeed, people seem to forget that prior to joining Apple, Cook spent 12 years at IBM followed by a VP stint at Compaq.

I don't view it that way. There are several reasons. If you look back at the Mac/Windows battle that was going on at the time, you'd find that one of the things that was the catalyst for separating Mac from Windows share was applications. There was a vast, vast difference in the number of applications that was available for the Macintosh than what was available on Windows. Over time, that gap grew and grew and grew. And in fact, the Mac began to lose some key applications. We have over a million apps on iOS. We have over half-million that have been optimized for iPad. That half-million compares to 1,000 for Android tablets. That's one of the reasons, although not the only reason, why the experience on Android tablets is so crappy because the app is nothing more than a stretched out smartphone app.

Cook also emphasized that Android is not a universal OS in the way that the Windows always has been and is. With companies like Android forking the OS for their Kindle devices and Samsung always trying to add its own proprietary skins to Android (and upsetting Google in the process), Cook likened Android to Europe insofar as both are comprised of entities with varying interests.

And speaking of Google, Cook wasn't surprised at all that Google got rid of Motorola, explaining that working on and connecting hardware, software and services is hard work. Of course, with Nest now under the Google umbrella, it'll be interesting to see what happens there.

With respect to new product categories, Cook said that they're coming and that Apple is working on "some great stuff."

And for all you Mac heads out there, you can put away any fears that Apple is forgetting its roots and solely focusing on all things iOS. Cook said that Apple isn't giving up on the Mac. Further, with lots of folks leaving the PC fold (not to mention PC companies themselves), Cook said that Apple is putting a lot of really talented people to work on the Mac to ensure that these PC nomads eventually find a welcoming safe haven in OS X.

Cook doesn't often give extensive interviews, which makes this one with Wall Street Journal well worth reading in its entirety.

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