Tim Cook: "Winning for Apple Is Not about Making the Most"

Apple CEO Tim Cook Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't offer a lot of specifics at his company's 2013 annual shareholder meeting, but he was crystal clear about one thing: "Winning for us is not about making the most. We want to make the best."

The comments came in response to a shareholder who wanted to know why Apple wasn't using its vast hoard of cash—more than $137 billion as of January's quarterly conference call—to wage "total warfare" on Android.

Speaking first during the question and answer session with Mr. Cook, the shareholder expressed concern that Apple has lost market share in the smartphone market. He didn't understand why Apple's R&D hasn't grown at a faster rate and wanted Apple to use its money to take back share and beat companies like Samsung.

Tim Cook responded saying that Apple, "doesn't constrain R&D [spending] for the sake of cash." He also made a vague argument disputing the relevance and validity of market share number in the first place. It was one of the least precise comments we've heard Mr. Cook make as CEO.

Moving on from there, Mr. Cook told the shareholder that Apple doesn't measure success by who makes the most devices. "Dell is a company that wants to make the most," he said, making it clear which company he believes does the better job.

Dell's market cap is US$24.2 billion, and that includes a recent spike caused by Michael Dell's efforts to take the company private. Apple on the other hand, is the world's most valuable corporation, with a market cap of $417.5 billion.

Mr. Cook said that total market share was less important than having enough customers to bring developers to the platform, something he believes Apple does better than anyone. He noted that Apple has paid out some $8 billion to developers from the App Store.

At the same time, he also said, "We don't have our heads stuck up..." At that point, he paused, looked embarrassed, and said "stuck in the sand."

The almost-gaffe earned him a big round of applause and laughter from the shareholders in attendance, but the point he was making is that Apple pays attention to the market, and is constantly looking at how it approaches the smartphone and other businesses.

"There's a button or two we could push this afternoon to make the most," he said, but that's not Apple's goal. Instead, he said, Apple would continue to focus on making the best products it can, products that "enrich our customers' lives."

Shares of $AAPL closed lower on Wednesday, ending the day at $444.57, down $4.40 (-0.98 percent), on heavy volume of 20.9 million shares trading hands.

*In the interest of full disclosure, the author holds a tiny, almost insignificant share in AAPL stock that was not an influence in the creation of this article.