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Tim Cook has eye on 'a lot of interesting small things,' not 'anything big'

Apple CEO Tim Cook, on a press tour of the company's upcoming billion-dollar campus in Austin, Texas, campus on Wednesday, fielded the usual questions — and offered the usual answers — about Apple's interests in China, U.S. investments, President Trump and, surprisingly, future initiatives.

Tim Cook

ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis and Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple's upcoming campus in Austin, Texas. | Source: ABC News


Speaking with ABC News, Cook started off by expressing pride in the U.S. pedigree of Apple's forthcoming Mac Pro, set to arrive in December, a sentiment he repeated during a press conference with Trump earlier today.

"We are really proud to make the MacPro here — this computer is our most powerful computer we've ever made, by far," Cook said. "It performs over 50 trillion tasks per second. I mean, this is just mind-blowing."

Cook said much the same in statements made after touring Apple's Mac Pro factory — a facility operated by Flextronics —with Trump Wednesday afternoon.

As for the president, Cook reiterated his stance on engaging with Trump and the White House, saying he prefers to interface directly with political leaders rather than communicate through surrogates. Cook's willingness to talk to Trump is rare among Silicon Valley CEOs who have distanced themselves from the Republican president. A number of tech industry elite nominated to Trump's business advisory board have since resigned, with Cook remaining as one of few original members.

"I don't believe in having people talk on my behalf," Cook said on Wednesday. "I don't believe in lobbyists. I believe in direct conversation. I strongly believe in engagement. I hate polarization. I despise it."

That said, Apple in October enlisted the services of Trump associate Jeffrey Miller to lobby on behalf of the company as it navigates the China-U.S. trade war.

"No matter who is in White House, the things I'm focused on are going to be the same," Cook said.

On China, Cook is reluctant to speculate on a next round of tariffs on Chinese goods after feeling the pinch on HomePods, AirPods and certain Mac products. The company was able to avoid in part levies on Mac Pro parts. Apple is seeking exemptions on Apple Watch, accessories and, most importantly, iPhone.

"I'm hoping that the U.S. and China come to an agreement, and so I don't even want to go down that road right now," Cook said. "I'm so convinced that it's in the best interest of the U.S. and best interest of China, and so if you have two parties where there's a common best interest there has got to be some kind of path forward here. And I think that will happen."

Echoing previous statements, Cook said Apple is unlikely to bring iPhone manufacturing to the U.S.

When asked about Hong Kong and Apple's controversial decision to remove an app that, according to Chinese officials, posed a threat to police, Cook said the move was not in response to government pressure.

"In the specific app in Hong Kong, we made the decision unilaterally," Cook said. "We made it for safety, and I recognize that somebody can say that is the wrong decision and so forth. We obviously get second guessed a lot when you make tough decisions on apps to be on versus off, but we made it for safety."

He went on to say that China has yet to ask Apple to unlock an iPhone without user consent, as the U.S. government did in the case of a device linked to the San Bernardino shooting in 2016.

"And we stood up against that, and said we can't do it," Cook said of decision to fight FBI demands to create an iPhone backdoor. "Our privacy commitment is a worldwide one."

While most of Cook's comments covered well-trod ground, with some answers pulled from previous public statements almost verbatim, one brief aside did stand out as peculiar. Asked about Apple's future, Cook made the extremely rare decision to offer a vague response.

"I don't have my eye on anything big. I have my eye on a lot of interesting small things," he said.

What, exactly, Cook is hinting at by "small things" remains to be seen, but the company is widely rumored to be working on a variety of devices — from an AR headset to pie-in-the-sky ideas like an Apple Car — that would be considered "big" launches if they materialize.