Apple watchers have been combing over the tidbits dropped by CEO Tim Cook as he took center stage at the All Things D Conference last night. At the 10th annual gathering of A-list Silicon Valley technology and media executives in Rancho Palos Verdes, Cook spoke on a broad array of topics from Apple’s current vision, to plans for the living room, an iPhone made in the U.S. and his views on China’s labor practices.
Cook didn’t disclose details about Facebook plans for the iPhone, but in response to a question about why the world’s largest social networking platform isn’t integrated into the smartphone like Twitter, he simply said “stay tuned.”
Asked about what happened to Apple’s Ping music social network, Cook spoke more broadly on the social landscape. “Apple doesn’t have to own a social network, if that’s the heart of your question. Does Apple have to be social? Yes. The ways we do that today, you see Twitter into iOS, and you’ll see it in the Mac with Mountain Lion. Some people see iMessage as social, and it’s an elegant solution. You’ll see more things like that in the future.”
Apple is "doubling down" on Siri, which will be updated to become an even smarter digital assistant, he said. “Customers love it," Cook stated. "It is one of the most popular features on the iPhone 4S. But, there’s more that it can do. We have a lot of people working on this. I think you’ll be really pleased with what you see in the coming months on this.”
Saying Apple will release some "incredible" new products, Cook vowed the company will "double down" on product secrecy, but be more transparent around issues related to social change.
Pressed about different-sized iPhone and iPads, Cook said, "There is not a policy or commandment that thou shalt have one. If we find we can do more, great."
Cook hopes for more made-in-the-USA Apple products, and as for a highly anticipated television or television content service, he referenced the current $99 Apple TV box as "an area of intense interest for us. We are going to keep pulling this string and see where it takes us."
Speculation is that Apple may unveil a TV-based device in late 2012 or 2013. "Here's the way we would look at that, not just at this area but other areas, and ask can we control the key technology? Can we make a significant contribution, far beyond what others have done in this area? Can we make a product that we would want?" Cook noted that Apple has sold 2.7 million improved Apple TV Internet receivers so far this year, almost the same as the 2.8 million sold in all of 2011.
As for Apple’s not-so-popular Ping social network, Cook said “some customers love it, but there’s not a huge number that do, so will we kill it? I don’t know. I’ll look at it.” He added, “We tried Ping and the customer voted and we said, this isn’t something I want to put a lot of energy into.”
Ongoing controversy over labor practices in assemblage of iPhone and iPads, through Asian contract manufacturers, particularly the hot-button Foxconn Technology Group and its listed entity Hon Hai Precision, has plagued Apple.
Cook said that an Apple factory in America is possible, and reiterated that key components are made domestically. "This is not well known...but the engine for the iPhone and the iPad are built in the U.S. in Austin, Texas," he said, referring to Samsung's Austin chip plant, where the A5 and A5X chips are made. "The glass is made in a plant in Kentucky," he added, in reference to Corning's Gorilla Glass facility.
This was Cook’s second public interview since taking over for Jobs, and he clearly has embraced his predecessor’s penchant for secrecy, stating: "I feel strongly that being secretive on the product side of our business is so important."
Cook said he spends less time focused on marketing and design than Jobs, who spent "virtually all of his time on those two things." For Cook, a strong team is vital. "You could have an S on your chest and a cape on your back and not be able to do everything," he told Reuters, adding that Apple will not be constrained by its past. "I love museums, but I don't want to live in one."
One observer not impressed by the proceedings: Monologuist Mike Daisey, whose one-man show about Apple was discredited after he appeared on Public Radio's This American Life. Daisey wrote a blog post criticizing All Things D co-hosts Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg for not asking tough enough questions of Cook, including about manufacturing and conditions at Foxconn in China, and they duly swiped back (as Daisey noted) on Twitter.
In any event, more will be revealed at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference next month.
Below, watch more of Cook's chat (including how he compares to Steve Jobs, Apple's innovation and more) at AllThingsD 10: