Apple's Cook: We don't need to be a wireless carrier

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook said the smartphone giant does not need to become a wireless carrier or own one, and that purchasing a carrier might actually be counterproductive to its global business.

Click here to watch select moments of Tim Cook's appearance.

"Do I think we need to own a carrier or the pipe?" he said during a keynote appearance at the AllThingsD D10 conference. "No. I don't think we need to do that."

Cook noted that most of Apple's business occurs outside the United States. "Owning something just in the U.S. would not have great value in our total worldwide footprint," he said. "I really think that guys that have it know a lot more about it. This is their area of expertise. ... I want to make great devices and use some of the bandwidth. I think we can partner with the pipe owner."

Apple, which netted 73 percent of the smartphone industry's operating profits in the first quarter according to asymco, commands heavy subsidy payments from wireless carriers, which some analysts have suggested should be reduced. Cook has said in the past that the iPhone delivers benefits to wireless carriers, including lower churn.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Cook touched on everything from the iPhone to the iPad, Apple's relationship with Facebook, its Chinese suppliers and his relationship with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. As is characteristic of Apple, Cook did not make any product news, and in fact Cook said Apple is "going to double down on secrecy on products."

However, Cook did let slip a few thoughts about the company's iPhone business. The Apple chief was asked why Apple does not release more than one iPhone or iPad at a time. Cook noted that Apple's approach avoids fragmentation with one device screen size for developers to make applications for.

"Our North Star is to make the best product," said Cook, Apple's former COO. "There's not a policy or commandment that says, 'Thou shalt have One.' If we find that we can do more, great."

Cook also returned to the seemingly perennial topic of whether Apple will build a cheaper version of the iPhone, something that would perhaps appeal more to prepaid carriers. In the past, Cook has been skeptical of doing so, saying that customers want the best product around the world. Cook was asked specifically if Apple will produce a $99 iPhone. "Who knows what we will do in the future?" he said. "I am not going to conjecture."

Cook noted that with the iPod Apple found it could build many great products at a wide range of price points, but that was the result of its efforts, not the starting goal. "Whenever we can do fantastic products and they yield great price points, that's great," he said.

The Apple chief also said to stay tuned on what Apple does with Siri, the company's artificial intelligence agent that acts as a personal assistant on the iPhone 4S. "Customers love it. It's one of the most popular features of iPhone 4S," he said. "But there's more that it can do, and we have a lot of people working on this. And I think you will be really pleased with some of the things you'll see over the coming months on this. We have some cool ideas about what Siri can do. We have a lot going on on this."

For more:
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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