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This is Tim: Apple CEO talks at investment conference

Macworld staff | Feb. 15, 2012
On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, where he was interviewed on stage by Bill Shope, Goldman Sachs's IT hardware analyst.

On Apple's cash holdings, spending, and returning money to shareholders

Well, let me first talk about your use of the word "sparingly" because this one I don't agree with. Or at least, I wouldn't use the word in the same context. We've actually spent billions in the supply chain. We've spent billions on acquisitions and including the acquisition of [intellectual property]. We've spent billions on retail. We've spent billions on the infrastructure, the company, data centers and so forth for the App Store and iCloud, etc., but yes we still have a lot. I guess I'm just pointing that out to say--I would say that we're judicious; we're deliberate. We spend our money like it's our last penny. I think shareholders want us to do that. They don't want us to act like we're rich, and we've never felt that way honestly. That may sound bizarre, but it's the truth.

Now, in terms of our approach on cash, I've said since becoming CEO, I'm not religious about this. I'm not religious about holding it or not holding it. And we're in very active discussions at the board level on what we should do. But I think everyone would want us to be deliberate and really think through, and that's what we're doing. We're not going to go have a toga party or do something outlandish, and so people don't have to worry it's going to burn a hole in our pocket.

[Our cash position] was always discussed. It's not new that we're discussing it. It is being discussed more, now, and in greater detail, and that's because the balance has risen to the point that you've already made. And I think it's clear to everyone, and I'd be the first to admit, we have more cash than we need to run the business on a daily basis. I'm sure everyone would agree with that in here. And so we're actively discussing it. I only ask for a bit of patience, so that we can do this in a very deliberate way and make the best decision for the shareholders.

On Apple TV, and the future of the living room market

Well, I wouldn't want to go into detail about future stuff, obviously, or make any comment that people would misconstrue along those lines. In terms of our existing products, we sold just shy of 3 million Apple TVs last year. If you don't have one, you should go out and get one; it's a very cool product, and I couldn't live without it--just as a short promotional break.

We sold 1.4 million last quarter. It's clearly ramping. But the reality, the reason we call it a hobby, is that we don't want to send a message to you or our shareholders that we think that the market for it is the size of our other businesses, the size of the phone business, the size of the Mac business, the size of the iPad business, or the iPod business. We don't want to send the signal that we think the leg of that stool is of equal length as those others. And so that's the reason we messaged it as a hobby.


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