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Apple CEO Tim Cook: Several Game Changers Ahead

Although Apple CEO Tim Cook did not announce any new products or whisper any secrets at the All Things Digital tech conference on Tuesday, he did drop some hints that Apple detectives can use to guess where the company is heading.

At the exclusive tech conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Cook sat for an opening interview with hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher that was most notable for the fact that it happened at all. (Aside from Apple launches and command performances in front of Senate committees, Cook rarely speaks at events.) The interview ran about an hour and included a question-and-answer section but didn't yield much concrete news.

Tim Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Investigations Subcommittee about the company's offshore profit shifting and tax avoidance in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.
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Tim Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Investigations Subcommittee about the company's offshore profit shifting and tax avoidance in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

Here are some of the most interesting tidbits from the interview:

  • Apple has hired Lisa Jackson, the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to oversee Apple's environmental work from product to policy. Cook said she will report directly to him, suggesting she will be one of about a dozen direct reports (besides being the only woman and African American).
  • Cook was cool to Google Glass, his rival's new wearable technology. The reason: Few people are eager to wear glasses unless they have to, and even then they want to make an unobtrusive fashion statement. He had nicer things to say about technology for the wrist, calling it "interesting," but said, "I think for something to work here, you first have to convince people it's so incredible that they want to wear it." He added, "If we had a room full of 10- to 20-year-olds, and we said, 'Everybody stand up who has a watch on,' I'm not sure anybody would stand up."
  • When Mossberg pressed him on why there's just one new version of the iPhone released at a time while there are several iPods, Cook suggested that could change:

Mossberg said, "You never come out with two different new iPhones for different either price points or demographics or regions or anything. Why not? It worked on iPod, why doesn't it work on iPhone?"

In response, Cook said, "Well, we haven't so far. That doesn't shut off the future."

Cook also addressed Apple's taxes and a U.S. Senate subcommittee's invitation to testify on Apple's structures. "The subcommittee was coming to certain conclusions and we felt strongly that we looked at those very differently," Cook said. "I thought it was very important to go tell our story and to view that as an opportunity instead of a pain in the ass."

Cook repeated some things he has said before: Apple's stock drop has been painful for Apple's board and investors, but Apple's best response is to remain focused on making high-quality products.

"I think we have several more game changers in us," Cook said.

I asked Cook about Apple's iOS software, and whether the company needed to release a mobile-specific suite of software more like the iLife offering it created for Macs. He said Apple is focused on apps that show off the iPad's content creation chops.

"In the beginning we were very worried that people would only see the tablet as a consumption device," he said. "Do we need to do more? Yes, always. Always we need to do more. So you'll continue to see some cool things there."

—By CNBC's Jon Fortt. Follow him on Twitter @jonfortt.

Email: tech@cnbc.com

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