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Day May 24, 2013

My questions for Tim Cook

Next week at AllThingsD’s D11 conference in LA, Apple CEO Tim Cook will be interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg.

Here are some questions I’m hoping they will ask:

  1. Why is the iPhone not sold as a portfolio product? Meaning, why, after six years, is there no iPhone product range being updated on a regular basis. Having a portfolio strategy is not only followed by every phone vendor but also by Apple for all its other product lines, including the iPad, which came after the iPhone. In other words, please explain why the iPhone is anomalous from a product portfolio point of view.
  2. There are more than 800 operators world-wide so why are there only about 250 of them carrying your phone? Competitors large and small (from BlackBerry to Nokia to Samsung) have cited relationships with more than 500 operators so Apple is being uniquely selective. My question does not stem from a lack of patience: this total number of iPhone distributors has not increased markedly for over a year. Are you limiting distribution through conditions placed on operators (like the availability of sufficient quality data services) or are operators finding the distribution agreement too onerous (e.g. too high a minimum order quota)?
  3. In 2012 Apple’s capital spending has reached the extraordinary level of $10 billion/yr, higher than all but the most capital-intensive semiconductor manufacturers. This is unusual for Apple as it was less than $1 billion in the year before the iPhone launched. It’s also unusual for Apple’s competitors in phones, PCs or tablets. It’s on a level matched only by semiconductor heavyweights. What is the purpose of this spending and what should we read into it leveling off at $10 billion for 2013?
  4. Depending on one supplier is an operational faux pas, and yet Apple has found itself in that situation with Samsung for mobile microprocessors. It may be excusable in PCs with Intel having an architectural monopoly but it’s not excusable for a chip that you designed yourself and purchase in massive quantities. Why did you give Samsung such a concession, especially knowing their potential as a competitor vis-à-vis alternative suppliers who had no such potential? Does the answer have something to do with the previous question?