Apple CEO Tim Cook Says AZ Project Will Create Ecosystem with Thousands of Jobs

The Apple Crystal BallApple CEO Tim Cook told shareholders on Friday that the project the company has going on in Arizona will create thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Perhaps even more tantalizingly, he also said the project would lead to an ecosystem that creates "tens of thousands of jobs."

The comments came during Mr. Cook's customary period of speaking directly to shareholders after the formal part of the shareholder meeting is concluded, and before he takes questions from the audience. During this segment he touted the fact that Apple had brought some manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., and said that a "couple of thousand" people were making Mac Pros in Austin.

He then moved on to the Arizona manufacturing facility Apple purchased in 2013. The company has publicly struck a deal with GT Advanced to produce synthetic sapphire material in part of that plant, and Mr. Cook referenced the project by its association with Sapphire.

While he specifically said he wouldn't go into details, he said that he was proud that this project would lead to thousands of jobs, with the inference being that these jobs would be attached to manufacturing whatever the company is working on. Some of those jobs are also likely to be workers employed by third party supply chain companies, including GT Advanced.

The surprising bit came when he said that the project would create an ecosystem that would lead to tens of thousands of new jobs, including developer jobs. Implicit in that statement that the product being developed is new for Apple, and that it won't be merely an extension of existing product lines.

There has been a lot of speculation that the Arizona project is for Apple's so-called "iWatch," or whatever move the company eventually makes in wearables, but Mr. Cook's comments are the most direct yet from the CEO that whatever Apple is doing will run third party software.