Tim Cook says Apple has no limits

Apple's top executive says that the company still has its magic and still has the capability to do anything it wants.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at an Apple event last year.
Apple CEO Tim Cook at an Apple event last year. James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't tell Apple it can't do something.

That's the message from chief executive Tim Cook, who spent about an hour talking up the company's efforts, and attempting to reassure a room full of Wall Street aficionados that the best was yet to come.

It's like that, Cook explained, because the people at Apple don't see any limits in making its products, or the future of its business.

"It's because of that that Apple's been able to do so many things for so many years, and do things that people didn't know they wanted and now can't live without," Cook said. "We don't think of the world with limits."

Even with that view, Apple has faced questions from Wall Street about whether it can restart some of the massive growth it pulled off from the iPhone and iPad in recent years, as well as maintain its tidy profit. The company has also come under pressure from investors to share a little of that profit back with shareholders, including a lawsuit last week by Greenlight Capital calling on the company to change how it handles preferred stock ahead of its annual shareholders meeting later this month.

Cook acknowledged Greenlight's proposal, saying it was being "thoroughly evaluated," but that the lawsuit the group filed was a waste of money .

"I think it's a silly sideshow honestly," Cook told Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shoppe at the company's annual Technology and Internet Conference. "And my preference would be that everyone on both sides of the issue would take the money they're spending on this and donate it to a worthy cause. That would be a lot better use of funds."

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Cook also shrugged off some of Wall Street's concerns about Apple's performance, saying that paying attention to quarterly results was missing the big picture.

"We're managing Apple for the long term," Cook said defensively. "I know people care about quarters and so forth ... but the profound decisions we make are for Apple's long-term. Not the short, 90-day clock."

Shares of Apple were trading at around $471 immediately following the talk, down roughly 2 percent.

Cook said he views some of that long-term plan as getting the rest of the company's ecosystem into countries where it's present just in bits and pieces. For instance, Apple has iTunes or the App Store in some countries, but not necessarily both. Cook also said that the smartphone market was set to double in the next four years, and that the iPhone wasn't yet available to half of the world's potential subscribers.

"I've also seen markets where we haven't done too well, and I view that as opportunity, not the glass is half empty," he added.

The appearance this morning is Cook's second at the Goldman Sachs event. Cook attended last years show specifically to speak about the company's efforts in China, as well as answer questions about the company's strategy and financial performance.

Cook, like Steve Jobs before him, rarely appears on stage outside of Apple's own product launch events. Besides last year's appearance at the Goldman event, Cook also headlined the All Things Digital D10 conference last May .

It's a busy day for Cook, who is scheduled to attend the President's State of the Union address later this evening. The White House yesterday said that Cook would be a sitting in first lady Michelle Obama's box to watch President Obama deliver the annual speech.

 

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