Apple’s Tim Cook drops hints about wearables, more collaboration

Is Apple making a wristwatch? What new products are in the pipeline?

Apple chief executive Tim Cook, in answering those and other questions, executed a characteristically careful dance. But he dropped small hints about what the company may have on tap for the future, while declining to confirm anything concrete.

Cook spoke for over an hour about wearable technology, television and other things with tech journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the All Things Digital Conference Tuesday night.

Cook said that while he thinks wearables are a promising industry — he indicated that he wears a fitness-tracking Nike FuelBand — he hasn’t seen any device that offers a great mobile computing experience. “The ones that do more than one thing. . .aren’t doing great out there.” Cook said.

While Cook didn’t mention Google Glass by name, he talked a lot about glasses. He said he doesn’t see much appeal for people who don’t have to wear glasses to pick up a pair for a wearable device.

He also said that to have a compelling wrist-mounted device, a company would have to convince younger users, many of whom aren’t wearing them.

“It’s ripe for exploration,” Cook said.

Addressing some of the questions lingering around Apple as its stock price has taken a hit, Cook said he’s not worried about the company’s demographics, such as its appeal among younger users. He also said he’s not too worried about market share numbers, as long as Apple customers are happy and deeply engaged with their phones and tablets.

Cook said Apple does not need to make a larger phone, a phone with a stylus. Apple consumers are not varied enough to have multiple, differentiated products that require them to weigh battery life, brightness or other trade-offs when choosing between different models, he said. “Our consumers want us to weigh those, and come out with a decision,” Cook said.

He also hinted that Apple may relax some of the tight controls over its software, so companies can do more with the iPhone and iPad’s core systems — though not enough to chance giving users a “bad experience,” he said.

That could mean that Apple may let users, for example, download apps that tweak the keyboard. But Cook didn’t seem open to developers having the kind of control over a phone that, for example, Facebook’s Home launcher has over Android phones.

And what about Apple television, which has been a rumored for more than two years? Cook was pretty tight-lipped on that front.

“I don’t want to go further on this,” Cook said, with a smile. “I don’t want to give anybody else any ideas that they don’t already have.”

He did say, however, that Apple has a “very grand vision” for the future of television and that it’s “an area of incredible interest to us.”

No matter what Apple fans read into that, they probably should not expect to see a new watch or television at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference, Apple’s big event for developers, coming up in a couple of weeks. Major hardware announcements at the show are unlikely; Cook said the company will have plenty to show off about its newest mobile software.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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