Charged with the keynote address at the Goldman Sachs investor conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook used the opportunity to talk about the world's most valuable technology company with the usual platitudes. "Magic," "experience," and "innovation" were common refrains for the 52-year-old Apple chief, whose first full year at the helm saw the company reach record-setting peaks, and, more recently, chart worrying slides downward. But if you cut through all the marketing jargon, a few markers in the speech give a pretty good sense of where Apple and its products are headed in the near future. Here, six surprising — and some not so surprising — things we learned about Apple from Cook's keynote:
1. Don't hold your breath for a cheap iPhone
Tim Cook abruptly shot down rumors that Apple was working on a budget-friendly edition of its best-selling iPhone. "The only thing we'll never do is make a crappy product," said Cook. "That's the only religion we have: We must do something great." He points out, however, that Apple has lowered prices of its products — like the iPod — in the past. And the company also continues to produce older iPhone models at steeply discounted rates — effectively "cheaper" phones in their own right.
2. He doesn't like the screen on Samsung's Galaxy S III
"If you ever buy anything online and really want to know what the color is, as many people do, you should really think twice before you depend on the color from an OLED display," Cook said. OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes, are "awful," he said, and are notably used on the screens of many of Apple's competitors — including, as Roger Cheng at CNET notes, Samsung's flagship product, the Galaxy S III.
3. Apple is betting big on retail
Apple plans to close 20 of its retail stores nationwide... in order to make them bigger to serve more customers. Apple's retail outlets now see 10 million people per week across 400-plus locations, Cook noted. On the company's last earnings call, Apple said it sold $6.4 billion out of its stores alone, and sees the need for bigger locations as a good problem to have, says TechCrunch.
4. Apple has explored large-scale acquisitions
Apple should buy Dell! Apple should buy Netflix! Apple should buy _______! Indeed, think-pieces about what Apple should do with its sizable cash pile is a common thesis generator across the blogosphere. Although he wouldn't get into specifics Tuesday, Tim Cook said that, yes, he has explored large-scale acquisitions of other technology companies. "We have looked at large companies. In each case that we've done that thus far, it didn't pass our tests," said Cook.
5. The company is probably working on something big
"A knock against Apple over the past couple of years is that the company has failed to innovate anything new, anything special," says Dan Rowinski at ReadWrite. "Apple had lost its innovative mojo, people said." Tim Cook argues that simply isn't the case. "I've never been more bullish for innovation at Apple," he said, without getting into specifics about Apple's future product lineup. "If you look at skills, Apple is in a unique and, in my view, unrivaled position. We have leadership in hardware, software, and services," said Cook. "The real magic is at the intersection of these. Apple has the ability in all three of these spheres and innovates like magic..." So, Apple TV? Car? iWatch? Anything?
6. Cook waves off Apple's hedge-fund troubles
David Einhorn, the billionaire manager of Greenlight Capital who owns 1.3 million Apple shares, sued the company last week over Apple's distribution of dividends. Einhorn is calling for shareholders to vote down a proposal that would make it more difficult for the company to issue common stock later this month. "Apple should unlock shareholder value through the distribution of perpetual preferred stock," Einhorn said in an SEC filing, calling for Apple to tap into its $127 billion cash pile as share prices continue to slide. Normally, a lawsuit at the hands of an influential investor would cause a company to worry. But when asked about the lawsuit, Cook simply responded, "It's a silly sideshow."