[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. Here’s an edited transcript of what Cook had to say on a variety of topics, ranging from working conditions at Apple’s Chinese suppliers to Apple’s culture and ethos.]
On working conditions in China
The first thing that I would want everyone to know is that Apple takes working conditions very, very seriously, and we have for a very long time. Whether workers are in Europe or in Asia or in the United States, we care about every worker. I spent a lot of time in factories, personally, and not just as an executive. I worked in a paper mill in Alabama and an aluminum plant in Virginia. Many of our top managers and executives visit factories on a regular basis and we have hundreds of employees that are based there full-time. So we are very closely connected to the production process and we understand worker conditions at a very granular level.
Now, I realize that the supply chain is complex and I’m sure that you realize this. And the issues surrounding it can be complex, but our commitment is very, very simple: We believe that every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment, free of discrimination, where they can earn competitive wages and they can voice their concerns freely. And Apple suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple.
We also believe that education is the great equalizer, and that if people are provided the skills and knowledge, that they can improve their lives. We put a lot of effort into providing educational resources for workers throughout our supply chain. We provide free classes in many of the locations in our supply chain, and we partner with local colleges to provide courses like English, and entrepreneurship, and computer skills, and the like.
More than 60,000 employees have attended these classes, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. If you could take all of these employees and move them to one location, it would be a campus population larger than Arizona State, which is the largest public university in the United States.
Many of these workers go on to earn associate’s degrees. So this is a very powerful stepping stone for people looking to advance their careers and their lives. In terms of problems that we are working to fix, you can read the details on our website. But I would tell you that no one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple.
We are constantly auditing facilities, going deep into the supply chain, looking for problems, finding problems, and fixing problems. And we report everything because we believe that transparency is so very important in this area. I am so incredibly proud of the work our teams are doing in this area. They focus on the most difficult problems, and they stay with them until they fix them. They are truly a model for the industry.
Let me give you some examples, because I think this is so important and this is so topical. It goes from large to small.
We think the use of underage labor is abhorrent. It’s extremely rare in our supply chain, but our top priority is to eliminate it totally. We’ve done that with our final assembly vendors and are now working down into the supply chain. If we find a supplier that intentionally hires underage labor, it’s a firing offense.
We don’t let anyone cut corners on safety. If there’s a production process that can be made safer, we seek out the foremost authorities in the world, the foremost experts, then cut in a new standard and then take that and apply it to the entire supply chain.
We focus on the details. If there’s a fire extinguisher missing from the cafeteria kitchen, then that facility doesn’t pass inspection until that fire extinguisher is in place.
We’re continuing to focus on the problems that our endemic to our industry, like excessive overtime. Our code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours for a work week, but we’ve consistently found violations to this code over the course of our time. So at the beginning of this year, we announced that we’re determined to drive widespread change.
And we’ve begun to manage working hours at a very micro basis. As an example, in January, we collected weekly data on over half a million workers in our supply chain. And we had 84 percent compliance. Now this is significantly improved from the past, but we can do better. And we’re taking the unprecedented step of reporting this monthly on our website, so that it’s transparent to everyone what we’re doing.
Now as you probably know, the Fair Labor Association began a major audit of our final assembly vendors, at our request. We started working with the FLA last year on an auditing project and just in January, we were the first technology company ever admitted into their association.
The audit that they’re conducting is probably the most detailed factory audit in the history of mass manufacturing. In scale, in scope, and in transparency. And I’m looking forward to seeing it resolved.
We know that people have a very high expectation of Apple. We have an even higher expectation of ourselves. Our customers expect us to lead and we wil continue to do so. We are blessed to have the smartest and most innovative people on Earth, and we put the same kind of effort and energy into supply responsibility as we do with our new products. That is what Apple is all about.
On growth opportunities for the iPhone
Yes, 37 million [iPhones sold in the last quarter] is a big number. It was a decent quarter. [laughter] It was 17 million more than we’d ever done before. And so we were pretty happy with that. But let me give you a different—at least the way I look at the numbers, which is maybe a little differently than you do.
As I see it, that 37 million for last quarter represented 24 percent of the smartphone market. So there’s 3 out 4 people that bought something else. And it represented less than 9 percent of the handset market, so 9 out of 10 people are buying something else. The smartphone market last year was a half a [billion] units; in 2015, it’s projected to be a billion units. The handset market is projected to go from 1.5 [billion] to 2 billion units. And so when you take it in the context of these numbers, the truth is that this is a jaw-dropping industry. It has enormous opportunity to it, and so up against those, the numbers don’t seem so large anymore.
What seems large to me is the opportunity. So what we’re focusing on is the same thing we’ve always focused on, which is making the world’s best products. And we think if we stay laser-focused on that, and continue to develop to the ecosystem around the iPhone then we have a pretty good opportunity to take advantage of this enormous market.
On making iPhones more affordable, and appealing to developing markets
These markets are—first of all, they’re critical. To go back to something I said before, the smartphone market is projected to be a billion units in 2015, so just three years from now, and 25 percent of that is projected to come from China and Brazil. And so just two of the markets, 25 percent. And obviously, those are two very critical markets, but there are others as well.
We’ve been very, very focused on China. China, we’ve had incredible success with iPhone. Over the past few years, we’ve gone from a few hundred million dollars of revenue in greater China, to last year $13 billion. So we really’ve been focused on trying to understand the market there and then taking those learnings to other markets. As it turns out—and not very many people agree with me on this, probably—but what I see is that there’s a lot of commonality in what people around the world want.
Everyone in every country wants the best product, as it turns out. They’re not looking for a cheap version of the best product, they’re looking for the best product. And so that’s the common thread that runs through.
Now, in the emerging markets, there are very big differences in the go-to market. For example, in most of the developed markets, the carrier owns most of the distribution themselves, but in the emerging markets, the retailer has a significant portion of the distribution. And so, the whole go-to market has to be changed significantly as you go in there.
Last year, as you know, we covered price points in the subsidized markets from zero on up. And of course, that doesn’t translate to 0 to prepaid markets. But it does translate to lower in the prepaid market, and so we’re covering more price points there.
But I would come back to the paramount thing is the product. It is the focus. And of course, distribution, we’ve recognized the differences there. We’ve recognized the difference in purchasing power. And, by the way, unlike probably many people, I don’t subscribe to the premise that a prepaid market is a prepaid market is a prepaid market.
Because in China, one of the things we did was we convinced China Unicom to try the postpaid business as well, and it really hadn’t been tried very much in China before, but it was amazing what kind of conversion that they go to the postpaid business with iPhone. And this is great for the customer, because they get the phone at a lower price; it’s great for the carrier, because they lock in a customer for a longer period of time, and so everyone wins from this. I’m not saying that will work in every market; it won’t. But it’s a different way of looking at the issue, and it’s certainly been successful in China.
On the iPad and the Mac in emerging markets
As it turns out, when Apple introduced the iPod in 2001, and then, after porting it to Windows and getting the iTunes Music Store up and porting the iTunes Music Store to Windows, the iPod created a halo for the Mac. And that kicked off a resurgence in the Mac that has now—for 23 straight quarters we’ve outgrown the market on the Mac; that’s six years.
However, the halo that was created by iPod for the Mac, was created in developed markets. It was created in the United States, it was created in Western Europe, it was created in Japan, it was created in Australia and Canada. It didn’t work nearly to the same level in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa, China, other parts of Asia, Latin America. Because people were already getting music from their phones.
However, the world changed for us, in many ways, when the iPhone was launched. Because the iPhone began to introduce Apple to literally hundreds of millions of people—some that bought it, some that didn’t; others that desired it. But it introduced our brand to people who had never met Apple before.
Take China, as an example, because I’ve talked about that. Last year the Macintosh in China grew over 100 perent year over year. Not on a big base, but 100 percent is pretty good. The market grew 10 percent, so it outgrew the market 10 [times]. What is clearly happening now is that the iPhone is creating a halo for the Macintosh. The iPhone has also created a halo for iPad. So you can definitely see the synergistic effect of these products, now not only in the developed markets, but in those emerging markets where Apple wasn’t really resident to any degree for most of its life.
Just to give you some numbers to put it in context: If I look back at 2007—I’m picking that because we didn’t launch the iPhone outside the United States until 2008. In 2007, the revenue combined from greater China, several other parts of Asia, India, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa was $1.4 billion. The revenue last year for that same group of countries was $22 billion. And we’re only on the surface. That’s how I feel, because we’ve focused mainly in China and last year we began to focus increasingly more on Brazil, and on some level in Russia. But there’s lots more opportunity out there, and so I think this is very, very profound and very big for us.
On the demand for iPad
This 55 [million] is something no one would have guessed. Including us. To put it in context, it took us 22 years to sell 55 million Macs. It took us about 5 years to sell 22 million iPods, and it took us about 3 years to sell that many iPhones. And so, this thing is, as you said, it’s on a trajectory that’s off the charts.
And so, why is this? Well, the product is absolutely incredible. And the pace of innovation on the product has been incredible. And so, we’ve gone from iPad 1 to iPad 2 in fairly short order. And the ecosystem that developers have helped us build out—there’s a 170,00 apps that are optimized for iPad—and so this is incredible. But the reason that it’s so large, in my view is, one: The iPad has stood on the shoulders of everything that came before it. The iTunes Store was already in play. The App Store was already in play. People were trained on iPhone, and so they already knew about multitouch. And so there was lots of things that became so intuitive when someone began to use a tablet, that—I mean, I gave one to my mother and she knew how to use it like this [snaps] from just watching the commercial.