Tim Cook: New solar farm will be Apple's 'biggest and boldest project ever'

"We're not focused on the numbers. We're focused on the things that produce the numbers," asserted Apple CEO Tim Cook on successes and failures under his tenure since 2011.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO---The upcoming Apple Watch might be the most anticipated release from the iPhone maker in 2015, but there is plenty more coming for the enterprise market this year too.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference at San Francisco's Palace Hotel on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook elaborated on Apple's new business software deal with IBM first announced last summer.

"Just how we changed consumers' lives, we want to change the way people work," Cook posited, admitting Apple didn't have the right foundation to start on this strategy alone.

Though historically Apple and IBM have been considered rivals, Cook insisted the "skills of the two companies are complementary."

"IBM has very deep knowledge of a number of verticals. Apple doesn't have that. IBM has enormous field resources. Apple doesn't have that," Cook acknowledged.

However, Apple has the devices enterprises want to deploy, Cook continued, but IBM doesn't.

"We'll begin to see that relationship bear fruit this year as apps begin to roll out," Cook promised.

The first wave of mobile apps from the Apple-IBM collaboration already began to trickle out in December. Built specifically for iPhone and iPad, the 10 industry-specific apps are targeted toward enterprise customers in banking, retail, insurance, financial services, and telecommunications for governments and airlines.

Bolstering its infrastructure for that project among many others, Apple announced at the beginning of February that it would be converting a failed Arizona sapphire plant into a data center.

Cook followed up on Tuesday by dropping news about what he characterized as Apple's "biggest and boldest project ever."

That would be the construction of a 1,300-acre solar farm in Monterey County, California, just a few hours south of corporate headquarters in Cupertino.

Cook touted this solar farm would be able to produce enough power for almost 60,000 California homes, or translated another way, enough energy to fuel Apple's new spaceship-like campus still under construction as well as all of its retail and data center locations in California.

Few further details are available at this time, but the seeds for Apple's solar farm are already sprouting praise.

Greenpeace analyst Gary Cook wrote in prepared remarks soon after on Tuesday arguing the tech giant still has a lot to do in shaping up its environmental footprint, but Apple's CEO has already demonstrated an understanding of the urgency demanded here.

"It's one thing to talk about being 100% renewably powered, but it's quite another thing to make good on that commitment with the incredible speed and integrity that Apple has shown in the past two years," he lauded.

Ringing up to a roughly $850 million investment, Cook told the analysts and investors in the audience that he knows "this is a financial conference, and some of you are interested if this is a good use of funds or not."

Nevertheless, Cook said Apple can expect "significant savings because we have a fixed price for renewable energy," which is quite a difference from the pricing model for "brown energy."

According to Goldman Sachs, Apple has seen its stock rise by 120 percent and annual revenue up 56 percent under Cook's tenure thus far. Since he became CEO in 2011, Apple has sold 750 million iOS devices and returned more than $100 billion to shareholders.

When asked about Apple's biggest accomplishments in 2014 alone, Cook retorted that one of the many lessons instilled by the company's co-founder and his predecessor Steve Jobs was that "putting limits on your thinking are never good."

"We're not focused on the numbers. We're focused on the things that produce the numbers," Cook asserted.

Nevertheless, Cook highlighted a number of releases that did generate plenty of buzz (and money) last year, including but not limited to iOS 8, Yosemite, the iPhone 6, and the addition of Touch ID on iPad.

"We've taken iOS and extended into your car, into your home, and into your health," explained Cook. "All of these are critical parts of your life and none of us want different platforms for different parts of our lives. That is huge for our future."

Apple Pay alone -- a project that has been in the works and expected to roll out for years before finally becoming available in 2014 -- is already accepted by more than 2,000 banks and credit unions.

Cook also boasted about Apple's continued path into China, growing its online and brick-and-mortar retail footprints in the market as well as a partnership with state-owned telco China Mobile.

Still, Apple Watch will be one of the core products to, well, watch in 2015. Cook quipped one of the biggest surprises to Apple Watch will be "the breadth of what it can do."

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