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Apple CEO: TV an ‘Intense Interest for Us’

30 May, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Apple’s rebooted Apple TV media player continues to be a work in progress — a strategic tact at odds with the company’s belief in not experimenting with a product already out in the market, CEO Tim Cook told attendees at the D10 conference last night in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.

In a discussion on stage with The Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, Cook said sales of Apple TV have topped 2.7 million units in the past six months of its fiscal year, which is nearly the volume it sold in all of fiscal 2011.

“Our tendency is to do very few things, put all of our wood behind a few arrows,” Cook said. “And if something creeps in and isn’t a big success, we tend to get it out of the way and move on and put our energies on something else.”

Cook said that despite the company’s mindset, it has stuck with Apple TV — a platform the late Steve Jobs once infamously characterized as a hobby. Cook said Apple TV is not a hindrance (not a “fifth leg of a stool,” he said), despite operating in a market size significantly smaller than mobile phones or personal computers.

The CEO said the uptick in Apple TV sales was underscored by adopting 1080p resolution and cloud-based movie storage, among other features (i.e. Netflix streaming).

“This is an area of intense interest for us,” Cook said, adding that customer satisfaction with the product has been high. 

“We’re going to keep pulling the string and see where it takes us,” he said. “I think most people would say this is an area (TV viewing experience) in their life that they are not very pleased with.”

Cook wouldn’t comment on widespread rumors Apple is developing a standalone TV. He said a key undercurrent in Apple investing resources in the TV business is its ability to control key technologies while making a significant contribution “far beyond” what other CE manufacturers have done.

“Can we make a product we all want?” he said. “Because we think we are reasonably good proxies for others. Those are all the things we would ask about any new product category.”

Mossberg said Apple TV could use more content, to which Cook replied the box has “lots of movies [and] Netflix customers love it.”

Mossberg countered that he can’t stream movies besides Netflix fare, since Apple’s movies are only available on a transactional basis for rent or ownership.

“Everybody has Netflix; that’s just table sticks,” Mossberg said, adding that he still has to buy the TV shows.“So you’re not solving every problem a person might have with the TV with your current product."

“Yeah, I agree,” Cook said.

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