The taciturn and, so far brilliantly successful Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will sit down for a rare, public interview withAll Things D’s Walt Mossberg on Tuesday at the 10th Annual D conference. With the intense scrutiny every single move the Cupertino-based company is under, Cook’s words will be closely monitored. Will he signal a shocking new direction for the company? Maybe he’ll show off that new stylus the company just tried to patent. The possibilities are endless.
As I prepare to sit in on the event, I came up with my best and most interesting guesses for what golden nuggets will cascade from the lanky Alabama native’s lips:
1) “I give you the iPhone 5″
This is the dream of not only every single Apple fanatic, but virtually the entire smartphone-using world. In his brief tenure, Cook has yet to introduce a completely new product. In fact, it has been over a year since the iPad 2 rolled out. The iPad Retina (or iPad 3) is really just an update (similar to what the iPhone 4S was to the iPhone 4). If I close my eyes, I can see Cook holding up the new 4.5-inch or 3.95-inch liquid metal or all aluminum iPhone 5 and ATD’s Walt Mossberg grinning broadly at the beauty of the little device. On the other hand, Apple is not in the habit of introducing major products at non-Apple events (and just a week ahead of Apple’s own World Wide Developers Conference). Why might it happen? Because this is Cook’s Apple, and not the late Steve Jobs’. Cook has been doing some things his own way and this could be the moment to put his own stamp on product introductions.
2) “Under that fabric is the new Apple iTV”
An Apple TV set is too big for Cook to hold in his hand or even two arms, but the potential of him introducing an entirely new product line is a tantalizing one. All rumors point to the possibility that Apple is working on a smart HDTV, especially since the device would be a lot like a large screen iMac, but with the tiny Apple TV box built in. On the other hand, rumors sometimes lead to dead ends, and, again, Cook may not want to intro brand new hardware on someone else’s stage.
3) This is Apple 2.0
Now this would be a bold and, potentially, dangerous statement for Cook to make. It would be an indication that this is the Apple you know, but with some important and welcome changes. The reality is that things are changing at Apple. A recent report details how closely he’s working with stockholders and investors and that his attention to process is even changing the way products are developed. What if he uses such a phrase simply to describe the important changes he’s making at the organization to steer it to even greater success?
4) We’re pleased to introduce iTunes with Facebook integration.
I think we can all agree that no one is using Ping, the iTunes-only integrated social network that was supposed to turn all that music we’re consuming on iTunes into a Facebook-like social experience. That has not happened. Recently, Tim Cook expressed his admiration for Facebook. Perhaps this is a signal that Apple’s about to back pedal on a rare misstep, drop Ping and replace it with a fairly rich Facebook integration. It’s not hard to imagine “I’m listening to Norah Jones on iTunes” on your Facebook timeline, is it?
5) This is the iPad Mini, and it’s amazing
Ever since the first iPad introduction in 2010, rumors of a 7-inch sibling have persisted. Jobs did his best to quash the rumors, telling investors during an earnings call that a 7-inch screen is “too small to express the software.” “When we make decisions on 7-inch tablets it’s not about cost, it’s about the value of the product when you factor in the software,” he added. Jobs really did not want to make that smaller tablet. He made those comments, however, in 2010, before the arrival of the relatively successful Amazon Kindle Fire. That device reportedly owns 50% of the Android tablet market, and it’s only been available since November of last year.
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So Cook could surprise many and vindicate those who have long believed Apple was on this path. The smart money, however, says this will not happen.
6) Our fight is not with Samsung and HTC, it’s with Google
Some believe Apple is getting ready to boot Google maps from iOS 6 in favor of its own mapping technology. This would be yet another blow in the once-chummy Apple/Google relationship. However, nothing has hurt that more than Android. Steve Jobs hated Android and told his biographer Walter Isaacson so: “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.” Instead, Apple went to war with all the companies building products on top of Android: Samsung, HTC, etc. What if Cook, who reportedly recently sat at a mediation table with Samsung’s CEO over patent disputes, finally turns the full ire of Apple on Google. The D10 stage seems like an unlikely place to do it, but then we know Mossberg will ask and Cook has to say something.
7) Thanks for having me, Walt.
Cook could end up talking about Apple in ultra-broad strokes and leave nothing on the table for reporters except scraps. This is also unlikely.
The reality is this may be the first opportunity many get to see and hear the real Tim Cook. My take on him is that he’s been far more instrumental in Apple’s success over the last decade than most of the Apple gadget-buying-public realizes. He’ll use the interview to make that clear, put his stamp more visibly on Apple and, I hope, surprise us. What do you think Cook will say when he takes the stage in southern California? Would you prefer products or the “The Story of Cook?” Tell us in the comments.