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In an interview today at the NYT Dealbook Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed the company was looking into cryptocurrency, but clarified it had no "immediate" plans to launch any crypto-related offerings. While Cook wouldn't detail any of the areas where the company may be exploring crypto, he did note there were several areas of Apple's business where he would not consider introducing crypto offerings.
Asked by interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin if Apple would consider accepting cryptocurrency through Apple Pay "or otherwise," Cook replied broadly that crypto is "something that we're looking at." He then went on to explain that Apple has decided where it doesn't make sense to invest in cryptocurrencies, even if it's not ready to speak publicly about crypto products.
"I would sort of characterize it as there are things I wouldn't do -- like our cash balance. I wouldn't go invest that in crypto -- not because I wouldn't invest my own money in crypto -- but because I don't think people buy an Apple stock to get exposure to crypto. And so, if they want to do that, they can invest directly in crypto through other means," Cook explained.
Cook also noted Apple had no plans to take crypto for its products as a means of tender.
However, he did firmly state that crypto was on the company's radar, saying "there are other things that we're definitely looking at," with regard to crypto, but said Apple had nothing to announce on the matter at this time.
Apple Pay competitors like PayPal, Venmo and Square Inc.'s Cash app have all moved into the crypto space in recent months, so it would be odd if Apple wasn't at least weighing a decision about making a similar move. And Cook himself has no real opposition to crypto investments, confirming to interviewer Sorkin that he, himself, invests in cryptocurrencies.
"I think it's reasonable to own it as a part of a diversified portfolio," Cook said, adding with a laugh, "I'm not giving anybody investment advice, by the way."
The exec continued by saying he's been interested in cryptocurrency for some time.
He added also that he thinks NFTs are interesting but thinks they will take a while to play out in a way that's interesting to a mainstream person.
The larger interview touched on other timely topics of importance to Apple and the larger tech industry, including Apple's position on security, privacy and the opening of the App Store -- something Epic Games is suing over, in an antitrust court battle now under appeal.
Cook was straight to the point on this matter of user choice, noting that users already have a choice when they buy a phone. If they want to load apps outside of an app store environment -- a practice known as sideloading -- there's another platform that allows that, he said.
"I think people have that choice today...because if you want to sideload, you can buy an Android phone," said Cook. "That choice exists. When you go into the carrier shop, if that's important to you, then you should buy an Android phone."
In Apple's opinion, sideloading is too risky, he said. Of course, it's also an avenue for Apple to lose out on millions of dollars that today flow through the App Store and in-app purchases, where it gets a cut of developer revenues.
Cook also spoke generally about his excitement for AR technologies, but didn't comment on Facebook's recent VR plans with Meta or any potential Apple projects involving automobiles, noting that Apple tries not to talk about the future too much.
He additionally detailed Apple's stance on politics, noting the company doesn't have a PAC, and defended Apple's serving of the Chinese market.
"I think that we have a responsibility as a business to do business in as many places as we can, because I think business is this huge catalyst, he said. "I think we should be about not pulling up the drawbridge. We should be about building the bridges. And I think that's key for business. In terms of what we speak up on, we speak up on some privately, we speak up on some publicly -- we do it in different ways," he said.