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Apple's Tim Cook: Innovation 'alive and well' at company

After introducing the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch last week, Apple's chief executive speaks with Businessweek about how the company has changed in his three years at the helm.

Tim Cook's Apple is a more collaborative place. CNET

For his first three years as Apple's CEO, Tim Cook has had to fend off barbs that the tech giant has lost its edge as an innovator. Cook last week offered plenty of reasons to reconsider those accusations.

After unveiling the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Apple Pay mobile-payment system and Apple Watch wearable, Cook enjoyed a victory lap in a new Bloomberg Businessweek cover story, which published Thursday.

"Anybody coming out of there yesterday knows that innovation is alive and well in Cupertino," he told the magazine a day after he introduced the new smartphones at the city's Flint Center for Performing Arts. "If there were any doubts, I think that they should be put to bed."

The new iPhones, which officially go on sale Friday, have already brought in record preorders and positive reviews. The digital watch doesn't go on sale until next year, but will mark Apple's first new product offering since Cook took over from former co-founder Steve Jobs.

Under Cook, Apple is now much more collaborative, a necessary change now that the blueprints for the company are no longer housed solely in Jobs' head, the Businessweek story reports. That new structure is also needed since "the lines between hardware, software, and services are blurred or are disappearing," Cook said.

"The only way you can pull this off is when everyone is working together well," he said. "And not just working together well but almost blending together."

For example, a new feature called Continuity is available on the new iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite operating systems, which allow users to start a task on one Apple device but finish on another. "We would never have gotten there in the old model," Cook said.

For the Apple Watch, Apple product design chief Jony Ive told the magazine the project was conceived in his lab three years ago, and Apple brought a handful of watch historians to its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters to help in its research. Ive said his team first tried using the pinch-and-zoom technology used in the iPhone and iPad for the watch, but quickly realized the screen was too small for those hand gestures and users' fingers would get in the way of the screen. The team switched to a "digital crown" on the side of the watch that can be pressed and rotated to allow someone to zoom in and out, get back to the home screen and scroll.

Nearly all of the company's rivals have targeted the wearables market in an effort to establish a strong foothold ahead of Apple. Mobile device makers including Samsung, LG, and Motorola and Taiwanese PC maker Asus have unveiled smartwatches and fitness bands. Traditional watchmakers, such as Fossil, are jumping into the market. And even Intel, the world's largest maker of computer chips, this month announced a new bejeweled luxury smart bracelet called the MICA that will sell for less than $1,000 later this year.

Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, didn't seem bothered that his company would miss this year's holiday season with its own wearable, and took a shot at rival Samsung."We want to make the best product in the world," he told Businessweek. "One of our competitors is on their fourth or fifth attempt, but nobody is wearing them."