Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Horace Dediu has four questions for Apple's Tim Cook

May 24, 2013: 5:10 PM ET

In advance of Cook's appearance at D11 next week, a deep dive into Apple's business.

Cook at D10

Cook at D10

FORTUNE -- For the second year in a row, Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to be the opening night speaker at the annual D: All Things Digital conference, an invitation-only event that prides itself in assembling the people that really matter in the world of high tech.

Asymco's Horace Dediu was not invited.

More's the pity, because the questions for Tim Cook that Dediu posted on his website Friday might take the moderators -- and their audience -- deeper into Apple's business than they usually get to go.

Here's what Dediu is hoping they'll ask:

1. Why is the iPhone not sold as a portfolio product? Meaning, why, after six years, is there no iPhone product range being updated on a regular basis. Having a portfolio strategy is not only followed by every phone vendor but also by Apple for all its other product lines, including the iPad, which came after the iPhone. In other words, please explain why the iPhone is anomalous from a product portfolio point of view.

2. There are more than 800 operators world-wide so why are there only about 250 of them carrying your phone? Competitors large and small (from BlackBerry to Nokia to Samsung) have cited relationships with more than 500 operators so Apple is being uniquely selective. My question does not stem from a lack of patience: this total number of iPhone distributors has not increased markedly for over a year. Are you limiting distribution through conditions placed on operators (like the availability of sufficient quality data services) or are operators finding the distribution agreement too onerous (e.g. too high a minimum order quota)?

3. In 2012 Apple's capital spending has reached the extraordinary level of $10 billion/yr, higher than all but the most capital-intensive semiconductor manufacturers. This is unusual for Apple as it was less than $1 billion in the year before the iPhone launched. It's also unusual for Apple's competitors in phones, PCs or tablets. It's on a level matched only by semiconductor heavyweights. What is the purpose of this spending and what should we read into it leveling off at $10 billion for 2013?

4. Depending on one supplier is an operational faux pas, and yet Apple has found itself in that situation with Samsung for mobile microprocessors. It may be excusable in PCs with Intel having an architectural monopoly but it's not excusable for a chip that you designed yourself and purchase in massive quantities. Why did you give Samsung such a concession, especially knowing their potential as a competitor vis-à-vis alternative suppliers who had no such potential? Does the answer have something to do with the previous question?

The conference is scheduled for May 28-30 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Video highlights are usually posted on AllThingsD.com shortly after the day's events.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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