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Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses rumored Paris retail store, EU tax ruling, AI, AR in interview

As part of his tour through France, Apple CEO Tim Cook on Monday sat down to discuss a few hot topics including the company's EU tax bill, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and a Parisian retail store rumored to take root along the storied Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Tim Cook (left) pictured with "Shot on iPhone" photographer Jean Claude Luong | Source: Jean Claude Luong via Twitter

Not much new information is offered in Cook's interview with French language publication Le Figaro, picked up by local Apple blog Mac Generation, as the discussion covered well-trod ground. The Apple chief did, however, drop a few hints about a potential new retail location in Paris.

In particular, Cook seemingly confirmed Apple owns a space on the Champs-Élysées but is still debating what, exactly, to do with the plot. Rumors that Apple signed a 12-year lease for an entire seven-story building along the historic shopping avenue first appeared last year. Reports at the time claimed the company intended to dedicate the bottom floors to retail, while the upper levels would serve as corporate offices.

Cook today said Apple is still figuring out how best to utilize the space.

Beyond retail, Apple continues to invest heavily in France and its workforce. Along with an estimated 180,000 jobs created either directly or through the app economy, Cook said Apple purchased a number of companies in the region. Whether or not the acquisitions were recent is unknown.

"France has always had a special place for Apple," he said. "This is the best place to discover and chat with all musicians, graphic designers, designers or photographers who use our products. There is such creative energy.

Speaking about the EU's recent ruling requiring Apple to pay some $13.6 billion in back taxes, Cook provided the same comments as usual, maintaining Apple pays its fair share of taxes and does not avoid taxes.

Related to taxation, Cook offered some background on Apple's European operations when asked whether the company would relocate some of its supply chain to France.

"In these debates on the location of factories, there is too much tendency to focus on the place where the product is assembled," he said. "When you open the product and look at the different components, you will see that the whole world is represented. We have 4,600 suppliers in Europe, and we have already spent $11 billion on the continent."

As for Apple's work in the artificial intelligence and augmented reality fields, Cook told the publication that AI —specifically Siri —makes the iPhone "even better." The company is widely rumored to be working on its own AR system —Cook himself confirmed investments in the area —but when, and in what form, that solution will launch is unknown.

Some industry analysts predict an end of innovation for smartphones and other portable platforms, saying future device iterations will be more evolutionary than revolutionary. Others believe smartphones are a perfect stepping off point for introducing AR/VR technology to the masses.

"Look at what happened with the PC. If you come back in the 1990s and early 2000s, you'll see that sales have gone down a bit, before you start again," Cook said. "The smartphone will take the same route. Innovative products always make a difference."

Reports over the weekend first placed Cook in France, where he was spotted at Apple retail outlets in Paris and Marseilles. The reason for his visit is unknown, but Cook has already met with a number of local business owners. Today, for example, he called on fashion designer Julien Fournié and ate lunch with the co-founders of startup VizEat.