Apple's Next Big Thing: Still TV, But Also Wearable Products

Cook Likes Nike Fuel Band More Than Google Glass

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Is Apple still in the business of making revolutionary products?

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook

That was the line of questioning for CEO Tim Cook on the All Things Digital conference stage after a year in which Apple served up evolutionary products -- new versions of the iPad and iPhone -- but did not create any new categories.

"You have changed the game, but it's been a while," said All Things Digital co-founder Walt Mossberg.

Mr. Cook said, in a word, that Apple isn't done and that plenty of game-changers are in the product pipeline. "We have some incredible plans that we have been working on for a while," he said. These ideas, he continued, are being created by "the same culture and largely the same people" that brought you the iPhone, the iPad and even some who worked on the orginal iMac.

While Mr. Cook did not reveal specific product plans or timelines, he dropped some hints. One area he singled out is hardly a surprise: Apple is still working on TV from its beachhead in the little black box called Apple TV, a product he once characterized as a "hobby."

Still tilting at TV

Sales of Apple TV have been a surprise over the past year. Once the company sold just a few hundred thousand a year, but suddenly the company has sold over 13 million, about half of those in the past year, with no marketing support. "That business has found many more customers that have loved the Apple TV experience," he said.

But Mr. Cook said Apple still has "grand plans" yet for TV.

"When you look at the TV experience, it's not an experience that I think very many people love," Mr. Cook said. "It's not one that has been brought up to date for this decade. It's still an experience much like 10 years ago or 20 years ago."

This, of course, is becoming nearly a mantra for Apple, which has been deeply embroiled in talks with content owners, much as it was a decade ago with the music labels. Mr. Cook would not say if this new TV experience is coming this year, or if he's talking about TV itself, or an evolution of Apple TV, except to say, "It is an area of incredible interest."

Wearable computing

If there's another category to be created, or redefined in an Apple-esque way, Mr. Cook singled out wearable computing, which, like smartphones and tablets will play a bigger role in the post-PC world. Mr. Cook held up his Nike Fuel Band as a single-purpose device that gets it right. "Nike did a great job on this," he said. "The ones that are doing more than one thing, there's not a great product that I've seen."

Mr. Cook also showered skepticism on the idea of Google Glass. "I wear glasses because I have to. I don't know a lot of people who wear them that don't have to ... from a mainstream point of view this is difficult to see."

Mr. Cook said the wrist is more fertile ground, even though young people have, for the most part, don't wear watches. "I think the wrist is interesting," he said. "But to convince people they have to wear something it has to be incredible."

Pressed on whether the fact that there are more Google-powered Android devices shipping than the iPhone or iPad means Apple is in decline, Mr. Cook said for Apple it has never been about making the most of a thing. "That has never been a cornerstone of Apple," he said. "We arguably make the best PC, but we don't make the most. We make the best tablet, and we are making the most today."

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