RANCHO PALOS VERDES — Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs, who died last fall, will be the one of the main topics of conversation here at the Wall Street Journal’s annual D: All Things Digital conference.
Conference hosts Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg plan to discuss Jobs’ influence and legacy with Apple CEO Tim Cook, Jobs’ longtime friend — and Oracle (ORCL) CEO — Larry Ellison, and Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, the animated movie studio that Jobs ran before selling it to Disney. Swisher and Mossberg likely will also discuss Jobs with Aaron Sorkin, the scriptwriter who is reportedly working on a movie about him.
The quartet of speakers are among a list of 17 high-powered executives and entrepreneurs who will appear at the conference.
Cook will kick-off the confab Tuesday night in an interview that will mark one of his first public appearances that wasn’t sponsored by Apple since he took over last August from Jobs. Swisher, a business columnist, and Mossberg, the Journal’s long-time consumer technology columnist,
typically cover a wide range of business- and product-related subjects in their interviews and forecast that they will do so with Cook.
“We’ll ask him about how the company can continue its huge success without its charismatic founder, and just what new digital innovations he envisions for the next ten years,” the co-hosts wrote in a note to conference attendees. “Oh, and then there’s that little project they’re working on — reinventing television.”
Cook’s appearance comes as Apple’s business is stronger than ever. Despite the transition from Jobs to Cook, the company has continued to post record revenues and profits.
But it also comes as the company has faced increased scrutiny for its business practices and skepticism about its future. Apple has been under fire for the working conditions in the factories that make its products, and has also drawn criticism for apparently exploiting tax loopholes to lower its effective income tax rate.
Since Cook took over as CEO, Apple has launched two major new products — the iPhone 4S and the new iPad — that have become hits. But many observers have attributed the success of those products to the influence of Jobs, who died in October. Some have expressed doubts about how Apple’s products will fare as Jobs’ influence fades.
Given that this is one of Cook’s first unscripted appearances since Jobs’ death, it will provide one of the first opportunities for the press to query him about Jobs’ legacy. Swisher and Mossberg also plan to address that topic separately on Wednesday in a panel discussion with Ellison and Catmull. Sorkin is scheduled to appear separately in a session Wednesday morning.
This is the tenth D conference. In addition to Cook, Ellison, Sorkin and Catmull, other notable interviewees include Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Facebook executive Sean Parker.
Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285. Follow him at Twitter.com/troywolv.