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Tim Cook: ‘Limit’ not a word in Apple’s vocabulary

(FILES)Apple CEO Tim Cook examines an iPad Mini during Apple's special event at the California Theatre in San Jose, CA in this October 23, 2012 photo. (KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the company is a “center of innovation,” telling shareholders Tuesday that the company’s culture of innovation has “never been stronger.”

At a speech before the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Cook named several top executives at the company who he says are “at the top of their game,” including the company’s chief designer and user interface lead Jony Ive. The event, which took place in New York, was live-streamed over the company's investor relations page.

Analysts also asked Cook whether Apple was getting to a point where it has reached a natural limit on iPhone sales growth.

Cook said “limit” was not a word in Apple’s vocabulary and that the potential for smartphone growth worldwide still makes the smartphone market an “incredible” one in which to participate. Cook said that the company has paid $8 million in the app economy and said that the innovation in the software sector has moved almost entirely to smartphones and tablets.

He also answered criticism that the company doesn’t have a strong plan to deal with the Chinese market, saying that Apple has seen strong growth in the Chinese market, adding more than $10 billion a year to its revenues in the past few years. He did, however, say, Apple has been able to lower the price of products such as the iPod in the past.

Cook also — without disclosing plans for future products — said that a good product is more than a top specification like a big screen or a fast processor. He said Apple is focused on building a full experience.

“What Apple does is sweat every detail,” Cook said, indicating he believed that those who tout a single killer specification do so because they can’t brag about the full product. What customers want, he said, is integration between hardware and software, and argued that Apple does that better than anyone on the market.

The executive also highlighted Apple’s continuing strength in the tablet market and the future potential of the market. He said the PC industry is going through a “sea-change,” and bragged that Apple sold more iPads in 2012 than HP could for its entire PC line.

“We’re in the early innings of this game,” he said.

Cook also commented on the lawsuit from Greenlight Capital, which questions the company’s proposal on Apple’s proxy regarding the rights of shareholders.

“It’s not about whether Apple returns additional cash to shareholders, it’s not about how much cash to return to shareholders, it’s not about the mechanism to return it. It’s about the rights of shareholders,” he said.

That said, Cook added that while the measure has his support, it’s not something that Apple will put too much effort into talking about it.

“You’re not going to see a ‘Vote Yes on 2’ sign in my yard,” he said.

Cook’s got a busy schedule for his time on the East Coast. He also is expected at the State of the Union address Tuesday night, a fact first reported by the San Jose Mercury News.

Last year, two prominent tech names joined the list of the first lady’s guests: Laurene Jobs Powell, philanthropist and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and Instagram co-founder Mike Kreiger.

Related stories:

Does Apple have an innovation problem?

Apple ‘iWatch’: Speculation and wish lists

Apple announces 25 billion iTunes downloads

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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