Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the automotive industry is at the precipice of “massive change” — though he stopped short of saying whether the world’s most valuable company would play a role in that transformation.
Cook enumerated ways that the modern descendants of the Model-T would be shaken to the very chassis — the growing importance of software in the car of the future, the rise of autonomous vehicles, and the shift from an internal combustion engine to electrification.
“It would seem like there will be massive change in that industry, massive change,” Cook said on Monday night at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference at The Montage resort in Laguna Beach, Calif. “You may not agree with that. That’s what I think.”
Cook, who was interviewed onstage by WSJ executive editor, Gerard Baker, declined to respond to published reports that Apple is developing an electric car that might hit the road as soon as 2019. Cook said that, in the short term, Apple is working to bring the “iPhone experience” to the vehicle through CarPlay, its in-dash system that creates a way for users to access their iTunes music collections or get driving directions from its mapping software without touching their phones.
“We’ll see what we do in the future,” Cook said, leaving open the tantalizing prospect of more. “I do think that the industry is at an inflection point for massive change.”
Cook fielded questions about the company’s first foray into wearable computers with the Apple Watch, its ambitions to transform television with the Apple TV, the status of the Apple Music subscription service and the company’s new smartphone upgrade program, which it debuted with the September introduction of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
Asked how many Apple Watches the company has shipped, Cook repeated his previous statement that the company wouldn’t disclose any information that would aid its competitors. Then he employed humor to cut off further questions in that vein.
“I can tell you tonight, we shipped a lot the first quarter; in the (September) quarter, we shipped even more, and I can predict we’re going to ship even more this quarter,” Cook quipped.
The Apple chief did, however, break some news on the Apple Music front, saying that the company now has 6.5 million subscribers. And he said that Apple would begin taking orders for its new Apple TV on Monday, and would start shipping by the end of next week.
Cook rejected the suggestion that Apple’s just-instituted smartphone upgrade program represented a competitive challenge to the nation’s wireless carriers, which also sell the devices. Instead, he said, it’s designed to satisfy the demand of the company’s consumers, who want a simple way to get the latest iPhone every year.
“They want it to be simple, so we designed a program just for them,” Cook said.
Cook reserved his most passionate remarks for Apple TV, pledging that it will do nothing less than transform the television experience. He described the set-top box as laying the foundation for a new television experience, one that allows networks such as HBO to deliver their content directly to the consumer.
“This [linear TV] model has outlived its usefulness,” said Cook. “It’s time to lose sight of the shore and move on with it.”
Cook, once known as the operations chief who quietly made Apple’s supply chain hum, is growing ever more confident in taking center stage as the executive at the helm of the technology giant.
He has been increasingly visible, flying to New York City to chat up the 3D Touch features of the latest iPhones as a guest on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and squeezing in an interview with BuzzFeed, one of the Internet’s most viral sites, en route to the company’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue.
Cook is often greeted like a celebrity when he is spotted at stores around the country, where he invariably poses for photographs with store employees and customers alike. He has also played a more prominent role in social issues, taking a public stance in opposition to an Arizona state religious freedom bill that he and others feared would be used by business owners to deny services to gay and lesbian Americans.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.