In a wide-ranging interview with the Telegraph, Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted that the company may launch more health-focused products in future – but will keep those separate from the Apple Watch. The reason, he says, is that the FDA approval needed for full-on health devices would slow down the pace of innovation of the Watch.

Cook hints that Apple may have more plans for the health sphere, in a revelation which will intrigue Wall Street, but he doesn’t want the watch itself to become a regulated, government-licensed health product. “We don’t want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it — maybe an app, maybe something else.” 

This represents a significant change from expectations …

It had previously been expected that Apple would add further sensors to future models of the Watch, giving it more health and fitness functionality. Speculation has included both O2 saturation – something that could potentially have been done with the existing heart-rate monitor – and blood sugar monitoring.

While Cook is giving nothing away, suggesting that future health plans may be limited to apps, many measurements would require hardware – and it now seems that hardware won’t be built into the Watch.

He again wouldn’t be drawn on Watch sales, but said that he expected to set a new sales record this quarter – though this is pretty much a no-brainer in the holiday season. It was recently estimated that Apple has shipped 7M watches to date.

Similarly with the new Apple TV, he would say only that early sales have been “extremely strong, very strong.” He added that the number of apps being created have been “much larger than we would have predicted.” Given the variety of these – from games to home rentals – Cook argues that the device “will really change the living room entirely.”

He also deflected the talk of Apple offering its own TV subscription, replacing cable service, echoing non-answers given by Eddy Cue.

We will see. The key question for us is: can we do something better, that acts as a catalyst? If we conclude that we can, then we would. But I wouldn’t do something just to do something.

Cook also suggested that with the launch of the iPad Pro would accelerate the post-PC era long predicted by Steve Jobs.

I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?

Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.

He acknowledged that the move to larger iPhones had cannibalised existing iPad sales, but repeated an oft-heard line that Apple isn’t afraid to do so.

“I think if you have the larger phone, you’re less likely to have the iPad mini”, he says, though he insists that the demand won’t fall to zero.

Some consumers use the iPad mini to read in bed, he says, finding it more relaxing than using a phone and the busyness that goes with it. That won’t change, he believes. “But I think it clearly created some cannibalisation – which we knew would occur – but we don’t really spend any time worrying about that, because as long as we cannibalise [ourselves], it’s fine.”

Finally, Cook weighed in on the British government’s controversial Investigatory Powers Bill – which has been dubbed the Snooper’s Charter. This would require tech companies to provide decrypted versions of user communications to the authorities when presented with a warrant. Apple would currently be unable to do so for iMessages or FaceTime, as both employ end-to-end encryption, meaning that Apple doesn’t hold the key.

Any backdoor is a backdoor for everyone. Everybody wants to crack down on terrorists. Everybody wants to be secure. The question is how. Opening a backdoor can have very dire consequences […]

If you halt or weaken encryption, the people that you hurt are not the folks that want to do bad things. It’s the good people. The other people know where to go

It has been suggested that if the Bill passed, Apple would have to abandon end-to-end encryption or stop selling iPhones within the UK.

Cook added that he was optimistic that the proposed new law will be rejected as both the public and the press are “engaged deeply” in the debate.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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