Wearable computing could be as big a branch of the technology tree as iPhones and iPads, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Speaking Tuesday night at this year's D conference, Mr. Cook said that he was "extremely interested" in wearables, but he dismissed "glasses"—i.e. Google Glass—as a niche product and said that other forms of wearables offered more promises.
Apple CEO Tim Cook
"There are lots of gadgets in the [wearable] space," Mr. Cook told hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, according to The Verge. "I would say that the ones that are doing more than one thing, there's nothing great out there that I've seen."
By definition, that includes Google Glass, a product in limited and controlled release right now. Mr. Cook is directly saying that he doesn't think Google Glass is a great product.
He added that he hasn't seen anything, "that's going to convince a kid that's never worn glasses or a band or a watch or whatever to wear one. At least I haven't seen it. So there's lots of things to solve in this space."
We have designated such comments as Cook Code™, language he uses when he wants to say that Apple is working in a given area, but in ways that others aren't. In 2009 Cook Code™ told us that Apple would compete with netbooks with a tablet.
In April of 2013, Mr. Cook used Cook Code™ to tell us that Apple won't release a large-screen iPhone until it can do so without compromising on some features.
Throughout 2012, Cook Code™ has been used to tell us that Apple is serious about the television market, but that hasn't yet come to fruition. Though Mr. Cook told us in the past—including past appearances at D—that Apple is intensely interested in televisions, the company has yet to venture beyond the settop box called Apple TV.
He offered a bit of that Tuesday night, saying, "When you look at the TV experience, it's not an experience that I think many people love. It's not an experience that's been brought up to this decade."
That's Cook Code™ for "We're still working on it," he he didn't offer up any new hints.
Back to Google Glass, Mr. Cook said, "There are some positives in [Google Glass]. It's probably likely to appeal to certain vertical markets. The likelihood that it has broad appeals is hard to see."
That comment about vertical markets, while true, is a classic case of damning with faint praise.
"I'm interested in a great product," he argued. "I wear glasses because I have to. I don't know a lot of people who wear them because they don't have to."
He added, "I think from a mainstream point of view, glasses are risky. To convince people they have to wear something, it has to be incredible. If we asked a room of 20-year olds to stand up if they're wearing a watch, I don't think anyone would stand up."
That would suggest that Mr. Cook thinks it has an incredible watch product in the works, a product that would appeal to young people today.
He insisted, "It's an area that's ripe for exploration, it's ripe for us to get excited about. Lots of companies will play in this space.
When pressed on whether Apple will be one of those companies, he declined to answer. Instead, he used the opportunity to utter some Cook Code™ that let us know that Apple thinks this market will be very, very big.
"I see it as a very important branch of the tree," he said. "I think the iPhone pushed us forward fast and the tablet accelerated it. I think wearables could be another branch. I think this group will be very involved in this."
To us, this is just as clear as his 2009 message about netbooks and tablets. Apple is working on something wearable, it's mostly a watch, and Apple expects to make a ton of money off it.