Re/code posts video of Apple SVP of operations Jeff Williams talking Apple Watch, iPhone sales, corporate responsibility and cars (just!)

Re/code has posted the video of Walt Mossberg’s wide-ranging interview with Apple’s SVP of operations Jeff Williams. Williams spoke about the company’s decision not to share Apple Watch sales numbers, how iPhone sales are hard to grasp, corporate responsibility issues – and touched briefly on the car … 

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Asked how the Apple Watch was selling, Williams said that he would say only that sales are “a lot” and that demand continues to outstrip supply.

The only number I’ll give you is that demand divided by supply is greater than one, and so that’s all I’ve got for you, Walt. It’s a lot.

At the very beginning, we decided we weren’t going to release data on the Watch […] The decision was, it’s a new category, we’ll see where it goes over time

That need to wait and see reflected the market prior to the launch of the Apple Watch.

Given the market environment, and the lack of success of smartwatches to date, it was hard to predict how quickly the Watch would take off.

I thought it was going to take a little bit of time, because millennials don’t use watches, they don’t wear watches. And we entered a space that the products hadn’t been great, and people were saying, “Look, what can I really do on this thing that I can’t do on the phone?”

The experience is, he says, “much more subtle,” having the Watch “actually liberating” because you don’t have to check your phone all the time – something which very much matches my own experience.

Williams said that there were already 4,000 Watch apps, and that these would improve significantly when developers can write natively for the phone, native apps likely to be released in the fall.

If you’re a fitness app — if you don’t want to use ours, if you use another app — you’ll have direct access to the sensors. I cycle on the weekends, and I like Strava, and I think they do some really great stuff, and they’ll have direct access to the sensors. They’ll be able to use the crown to do many different things.

Jokingly asked if Apple could fix it so that the prompts to stand up didn’t all arrive at ten to the hour, as it was disruptive in conferences, Williams said that he didn’t see anything wrong with that.

We love that. What’s wrong with that? It’s kind of a salute.

Williams said iPhone sales numbers were hard to grasp. No-one, he said, could really make sense of 74M sales in 90 days.

If you stacked all of the phones — you know how thin they are, an iPhone 6 — if you stacked them like pancakes, not only would they be taller than the tallest building, they would go up a few hundred miles, such that they would be higher than the orbit of the International Space Station.

Williams also said that criticisms of working conditions in manufacturing plants in China were unfair. When there were reports of a cluster of suicides among iPhone workers, he said that he and Tim Cook went to personally investigate.

The reality is, even in their big cluster of suicides, the statistics were a lower suicide rate than any place in the U.S., at their biggest cluster. So, by that definition, it would be the happiest place on Earth. Now, there’s a lot that we can learn and do better, and Foxconn did some amazing things on employee-help lines. But we investigated each and every suicide, and they were not associated with working conditions.

On employee diversity, Williams said Apple was doing well but can do a lot better.

We’re focused on diversity, not only on gender and sexual orientation; we also are very interested in diversity on thought, where people come from — we view it very broadly. In my organization, over the past three years of the core vice presidents that worked for me, about half of them are female. We have a diverse workforce at Apple, but we need to do better in some categories, and we’re actively trying to do that. It’s a core focus of ours.

Unsurprisingly, Williams had nothing to say on future product categories, beyond observing that Apple is a mobile device company and “the car is the ultimate mobile device.” He cautioned that Apple explores all kinds of categories and only pursues those where it thinks it “can make a huge difference.”

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy 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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