Tim Cook talks about Covid-19, return to work plan at Apple’s company-wide meeting
During the meeting, Cook called the pandemic an “uncertain and stressful moment,” but expressed confidence that the company will emerge strongly from the crisis.
Apple Inc Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook led a company wide virtual meeting on Thursday to address concerns about the impact of Covid-19 and discuss the iPhone maker's plan to return to work.
During the meeting, Cook called the pandemic an "uncertain and stressful moment," but expressed confidence that the company will emerge strongly from the crisis, as it did after the 2008 recession and following a near-bankruptcy in the late 1990s.
He said that Apple "isn't immune to worldwide economic trends," but that it entered the coronavirus pandemic with a robust balance sheet and stressed that the company will keep investing in a "really significant way" in research and development and future products, according to Apple employees who attended the meeting. A company spokesman declined to comment.
"If we stay focused on doing what we do best, if we keep investing, if we manage the business wisely and make decisions collaboratively, if we take care of our teams, if our teams take care of their work, I don't see any reason to be anything but optimistic," Cook, who has been Apple's top executive for nearly a decade, told staff.
When asked about potential job cuts, the CEO reiterated Apple's strong financial position and pointed out that it has been paying retail employees while stores are closed. "I won't tell you Apple won't be impacted," Cook said, while stressing that his focus is on running the company for the long-term rather than making short-term adjustments.
Apple doesn't yet know when employees will be able to return to offices, but Cook said that when workers do go back, temperature checks and social distancing will likely be implemented. He said coronavirus testing is a possibility, but that there aren't plans in place at the moment.
Apple's head of human resources and retail, Deirdre O'Brien, said the company is tweaking its vacation policy through the rest of the year to reimburse employees for unused days. She also said there would be flexibility for returning to work for employees in unique situations.
Apple retail employees are starting online training and ramping up virtual meetings in anticipation of store re-openings, according to people familiar with the matter. That will require employees to clock in and out online. Apple anticipates beginning to re-open its US stores in early May.
Cook said Apple has donated more 30 million masks and has shipped 2 million of its new face shields, while contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to battling Covid-19. He also said the company's Covid-19 screening app has been used millions of times.
Cook said that the introduction of the new MacBook Air, iPad Pro and iPhone SE in recent weeks shows that the company isn't letting the pandemic disrupt its product launches.
He said when he first joined Apple in 1998, the company responded to financial challenges with the release of the original iMac. He noted that Apple rolled out the first iPad in 2010, right after the Great Recession, and said that Apple's plan is to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic in a similar fashion.
The company plans to release up to four redesigned iPhones later this year with 5G networking and is preparing to introduce a virtual-reality headset in 2021 or 2022, Bloomberg News has reported. It's also working on its own main processors for Mac computers, light-weight augmented-reality glasses and self-driving car technology.
During the meeting, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said that the crisis has elevated the importance of Apple's work on health products, including the Apple Watch, and said the company's development work in the space isn't "limited to the wrist." He also said the pandemic is pushing countries to more quickly help Apple rollout the Apple Watch's electrocardiogram feature.
Other Apple executives also participated, including services head Eddy Cue and software chief Craig Federighi. Cue discussed the decision to defer March and April payments on the Apple Card, and Federighi outlined the privacy of the company's partnership with Google for contact tracing.