Apple's Autonomous Systems Ambitions Extend Beyond Cars, Hints CEO Tim Cook

Apple's Autonomous Systems Ambitions Extend Beyond Cars, Hints CEO Tim Cook
  • Cook said Apple is making a big investment in autonomous systems
  • Cook made the statement during Apple's Q3 earnings call
  • Beyond the hint at the scope, Cook did not reveal much else

Speaking at the Apple's Q3 2017 earnings call on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted that Apple's experiments with self-driving cars may include ambitions that extend beyond cars. He said the company is making a "big investment" in autonomous systems.

"From our point of view, autonomy is sort of the mother of all AI projects," Cook said. "And the autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways, and a vehicle is only one, but there are many different areas of it. And I don't want to go any further with that."

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Separately, Apple said revenue from emerging markets excluding China grew 18 percent, a bright spot. But sales from the Greater China region fell 9.5 percent to $8 billion in the latest quarter, as consumers switched to newer domestic offerings.

The decline was smaller than recent quarters. Apple's Maestri said mainland China revenue was flat, as were iPhone sales in the mainland. Sales of other Apple products rose in mainland China and were also up in Taiwan.

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"The decline from a market standpoint was concentrated in Hong Kong, which is a place that has been really affected by a reduction in tourism because the Hong Kong Dollar is pegged to the US. dollar," Maestri said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also directly addressed the company's decision to remove so-called VPN apps from the App Store in China. Those apps help Chinese users circumnavigate government Internet restrictions.

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"We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries we follow the law wherever we do business," Cook said. "We believe in engaging with governments even when we disagree. This particular case, we're hopeful that over time the restrictions we're seeing are lessened, because innovation really requires freedom to collaborate and communicate."

Strong iPad sales of $4.9 billion - almost $1 billion above Wall Street expectations - and a 21.6 percent jump in the company's services business that includes the App Store also helped boost revenue. In particular, Apple said that Walmart Stores would buy 19,000 iPads to train as many as 225,000 employees. The company also said it increased production of AirPods, its wireless headphones.

Apple CEO Tim Cook declined to directly address US President Donald Trump's claims that Apple will build three new factories in the US, instead citing the company's job creation efforts and a $1 billion US manufacturing fund.


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