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Apple has no immediate plans to accept crypto as payment, Tim Cook says

<i>CNN</i><br/>Apple CEO Tim Cook said he has no plans in the immediate future to accept crypto as a means of payment for Apple products.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said he has no plans in the immediate future to accept crypto as a means of payment for Apple products.

By Clare Duffy, CNN Business

Tim Cook is a cryptocurrency owner. But don’t call him a bitcoin bull.

“I don’t want to put any labels on me, it’s just that it’s something, from a personal point of view, I’m interested in,” the Apple CEO told journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times DealBook Summit Tuesday.

Cook didn’t specify which tokens he owns but said, “I think it’s reasonable to own [crypto] as part of a diversified portfolio. … I’ve been interested in it for a while.”

Still, cryptocurrency enthusiasts shouldn’t hold their breath for the day when they can buy an iPhone using bitcoin. Cook said he has no plans in the immediate future to accept crypto as a means of payment for Apple products. He added that he also doesn’t plan to invest any of Apple’s cash in cryptocurrency. Some other companies, most notably Tesla and Jack Dorsey’s payments company Square, have invested in crypto directly and, for a short time, Tesla accepted bitcoin as payment.

“I don’t think people buy an Apple stock to get exposure to crypto,” Cook said. “If they want to do that, they can invest directly into crypto through other means.”

But, he said, “there are other things” related to crypto “that we’re definitely looking at. … I wouldn’t have anything to announce today.”

In terms of Apple’s other future plans, Cook declined to comment on the longstanding rumors that an Apple car could be forthcoming.

“We try not to talk about the future too much, because we’ve got so much going on in the current day that we try to be secretive about the future,” he said. “It wouldn’t be us if we didn’t keep something up our sleeves.”

Cook also addressed a number of other issues facing the tech giant, including criticisms that its App Store allows it to act as a gatekeeper between app developers and the millions of customers in the Apple ecosystem. Apple is currently engaged in a legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games over its App Store and the commission fees it charges to developers. Apple critics and even some lawmakers have called on the company to allow third-party App Stores, a move sometimes referred to as “sideloading.” Apple has defended its commissions as consistent with other app stores and that the exclusivity of the App Store on its devices is necessary to ensure security.

“If you want to sideload, you can buy an Android phone,” Cook said. He added that giving iPhone users the option to “sideload” apps from platforms outside the Apple App Store would, from Apple’s point of view, “be like, if I were an automobile manufacturer, telling me not to put airbags and seatbelts in a car. You would just never think about doing this. In today’s time, it’s just too risky… and it wouldn’t be an iPhone if it didn’t maximize security and privacy.”

The company has also faced a steady stream of criticism over its operations in China, where concerns have been raised about human rights abuses by the Chinese government (which the government denies).

“I think that we have a responsibility as a business to do business in as many places as we can,” Cook said. “I believe in what [former IBM CEO] Tom Watson said, ‘world peace through world trade.’ … In terms of what we speak up on, we speak up on some [issues] privately, we speak up on some publicly, we do it in different ways. And you have to get your head around, when you’re operating outside the US in any country in the world, that there are different laws. That’s part of the complexity and part of the beauty of the world is that everybody has their own laws and customs.”

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