During his interview at the D10 conference today, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked point blank by Kara Swisher about how Apple plans to change television.
He replied by praising the current set-top box Apple sells for $100. The Apple TV sold 2.8 million units last year and 2.7 million this year. “It’s an area of intense interest for us,” said Cook, “It’s not a fifth leg of the stool. It’s not the same size as the phone or Mac or tablet business.”
Walt Mossberg, co-interviewer, asked directly if Apple could just make a box and continue leaving the panel to others. Cook replied, “Can we control the key technology? Can we make a significant contribution far beyond what others have done in this area?” That’s the question Apple asks, and Cook seemed to be very interested in what the future may hold for his company’s future contributions.
The key phrase here: “control the key technology.” The answer to Mossberg’s question depends, ultimately, on what Apple sees as key to the television product itself. Cook was pushed by Mossberg, who said, “You’re not doing everything you could do.”
Tim Cook said in reply, “I agree.”
In addition, Cook alluded to the fact that Steve Jobs had owned a content business (Pixar), and that Apple had learned a lot from that. When asked if Apple was going to start creating content, he quickly countered with, “I think this is an area where Apple partnering well is the right approach. I don’t think Apple has to own a content business. We haven’t had an issue in getting content. You look at songs, and we have 30 million songs. We have double digits thousands of movies, over 100 thousand TV episodes.”
Whew. That was close. Cook skirted the questions about specific products — whether there would be an iteration of the current Apple TV set-top box, or the rumored Apple television set.
But what about gaming? During the Q&A, a reporter asked about Apple’s connection to gaming. After Cook said that Apple is “in gaming now in a fairly big way,” and that he was “not interested in being in the console business in what is thought of as traditional gaming,” Cook was asked to comment on gaming and the Apple TV.
“I think it could be interesting,” Cook said.