Cook, 52, CEO of the Cupertino, Calif., electronics company since August 2011, gave an interview to Bloomberg BusinessWeek for its Dec. 10 issue. Excerpts were published Thursday.
Among the highlights:
The “DNA of the company is still the same," Cook said, despite the death of predecessor Steve Jobs. Management wants to keep making “the absolute best products in the world.”
Apple will commit to “doing only a few things” and not enter sectors in which it can't excel. “We'll only do things where we can make a significant contribution,” he said. “I don't mean financially. I mean some significant contribution to the society at large.”
The company plans to repatriate some of the production of its Mac line to the U.S. in 2013. “We've been working on this for a long time and we're getting closer to it,” Cook said, noting that the glass for Apple products is made in Kentucky, mainly by Corning Inc. (NYSE:GLW).
Apple plans to invest “over $100 million” on U.S. manufacturing but with partners, whom Cook didn't identify. “I do think we have a responsibility to create jobs,” he said, noting that he and other executives have carefully inspected Chinese factories run by Foxconn International Holdings (HKG:2038).
“We have executives that have stayed in dorms,” Cook said. “It's not unusual. Honestly, it wasn't to see what life was like in a dorm. It was that we worked closely with these manufacturing partners.”
Still, Apple critics downplayed the announcement as a public relations stunt. "Apple's spent $650 million just on advertising the iPhone since it was launched," said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman of SumofUs.org, which has spearheaded activists seeking improvement in working conditions for electronics workers.
"Is it a coinincidence that Tim Cook is announcing this move just before the holiday shopping season?" she asked.
On the transition from Jobs, who died only six weeks after ceding the CEO title, Cook said he instantly accepted the job and expected to work with Jobs as chairman for a long time. Jobs, who was dying of cancer, singled out what happened at Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) after its founder died and employees “kept asking what Walt would have done.”
Cook said Jobs told him, “I never want you to ask what I would have done. Just do what's right.”
The Apple CEO declined to describe the much-rumored Apple TV product, suggested the recent firings of software VP Scott Forstall and retail VP John Browett was due to “lack of collaboration,” and said he doesn't care if he's recognized or not in public.
“That doesn't drive me,” Cook said about public acclaim. “I am driven by great work and seeing people do incredible things and having a part in that.”
Shares of Apple rose $8.45 to $547.24 in Thursday trading.