As the iPhone becomes available at the world’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile, Tim Cook is out answering the usual questions about Apple. And, as usual, he doesn’t say much of anything; he merely repeats the same old talking points.
One thing is certain, however, and that is that Cook is better able to field the hard questions with non-answers than ever. His public appearances are less stilted, no doubt because he’s been practicing. Of course, I’m not about to suggest he’s been coached. The improvement in his presentation may simply stem from experience. The more he does this sort of thing, the better he is.
Unfortunately, the media, so desperate to receive a few words of wisdom from Apple’s fearless leader, is only too polite to remind him that he really didn’t say anything new. The questions are largely pro forma. Will the next iPhone have a larger screen, for example? Do you really expect Cook to say that he’s happy to let you in on a little secret about it? Instead, you just know he’ll tell you, in various ways, how Apple loves to keep new product details secret until the right time, implying the reporter must feel embarrassed even to ask.
In Bloomberg News report about the arrival of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c at China Mobile, Cook was quoted as saying, when asked about new smartphone features, such as larger screens and bendable displays, “We never talk about future things. We have great things we are working on but we want to keep them secret. That way you will be so much happier when you see it.”
The way he phrased it almost sounds patronizing.
Predictably, the headlines talk about the promise of “great things” coming from Apple rather than the real headline, which is that Cook merely repeated the standard Apple mantra when asked about forthcoming new products.
First of all, all tech companies will offer some variation of the “great things” comment, even Microsoft. They will all tell you how their amazing product developers are busy designing gear that will turn the industry upside down. Other than Apple, you are likely going to receive some details, even if only general details, about what those products or features might be. Of course, there’s no guarantee any of those “great things” will ever come to pass.
Microsoft, for example, has been notorious over the years for announcing future products that never actually appeared. It doesn’t happen quite as often nowadays now that there’s real competition, but the 1990s and early 2000s are littered with unfulfilled Microsoft promises. Unfortunately, the media gave Bill Gates and, later, Steve Ballmer, a pass in delivering just more vapor — make that hot air.
But I do understand Apple’s predicament. More than ever, there has been plenty of skepticism over how Apple will handle future product development, and whether there’s anything in the wings that will have the amazing impact of the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Where’s the followup?
This is what fuels the ongoing demands that Apple tell us something, anything, about what those future products might be. At the same time, Cook isn’t going to spill the beans. He may drop some tantalizing hints here and there, and when Apple refuses to dismiss the value of any product or service, there’s probably a fair chance something of the sort is being worked on.
So you know that Cook isn’t against building iPhones with larger screens. He has talked more about the possible shortcomings of current technology, which is a clear message that something is in the works that resolves those shortcomings. You also suspect that a solution for the wearables market is in the works because Cook admits Apple’s interest. But that doesn’t mean the wearable is necessarily an iWatch.
Sure, Apple has reportedly trademarked the iWatch name. But is that to prepare for such a beast, or as a defense maneuver to reserve that name in case an iWatch comes sometime farther in the future? The rumors that Apple had 100 engineers working on the project, and has continued to add personnel, have never been confirmed, so make of that what you will. Besides, that people are working on a product doesn’t signal when it’ll be released.
Apple’s “intense interest” in the living could mean that there’s a connected TV in our future, or maybe not. Perhaps an Apple TV on steroids is really on the agenda, one that will offer hotter specs, perhaps Ultra HD support, but will focus on interface improvements, and a much wider content selection. An Apple TV box can work on any recent TV, since those recent TVs have HDMI ports. So why enter the overcrowded TV set market?
But at the end of the day, Tim Cook knows the media will quote whatever he says, emphasize Apple’s talking points, and not ask any follow-up questions to elicit even a hint or two of useful information. And Apple’s skeptics won’t be impressed regardless.