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Cook, Apple's success take center stage at annual shareholder meeting

Dan Frakes | Feb. 24, 2012
Despite a couple dozen protestors sporting "Make Ethical iPhones" signs, the mood at Apple's annual shareholders meeting, held Thursday morning at the company's Cupertino campus, was celebratory--both for shareholders in general and for some shareholder activists.

Indeed, of the seven or eight shareholders who had a chance to speak and ask questions in the short open-mic period, all were congratulatory, with only minor criticisms presented; this year, shareholders seem pretty satisfied with their lot, and were more interested in how Apple was going to continue its run of successes.

CEO Tim Cook, senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, and senior vice president and chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer fielded the questions this year. Among the topics they addressed were Apple's mountain of cash, video-content distribution, social networking, education, and stock splits. (Quotes may not be exact, as Apple does not allow computers or recording devices in shareholder meetings.)

  • Cook, on the company's cash hoard: "We've spent billions on our supply chain, building our retail stores, and purchasing companies and intellectual property. We've spent a lot, but we still have a lot. The board and management team are in active discussions...we will do what we believe is in the best interests of the company and the shareholders."
  • Cook, on some shareholders disagreeing with the board's decisions (and ribbing board member Al Gore, in attendance): "It's difficult to get 100-percent agreement or votes...sometimes even a majority...Al, as you know, sometimes it doesn't even matter if you get the majority of votes."
  • Cook, in response to a shareholder urging the company to use its cash hoard to come up with an alternative to Netflix, Hulu, and the like for video-content distribution: "There are plenty of apps that provide content, and users want those apps. We get profit from selling devices...our focus is not on making a lot of money in content...An a la carte video system isn't likely to arrive quickly, because the money is big for the companies involved."
  • Schiller, on the same topic: "Just as we did with music, we have to find a solution for the content owners as well as the customers, and for Apple."
  • Cook, on whether Facebook is a friend or foe: "Facebook is a friend--we do a lot with them, and our users use them a lot. There aren't significant areas where the companies overlap, and I believe the two companies can do more together" And on social networking in general: "We've integrated Twitter into iOS, and we think iMessages is social networking."
  • Cook, in response to the best question of the day ("I just bought a new 55-inch LG TV for the SuperBowl, and I have 60 days to return it. Should I return it?"): "I'm not going to comment on that, but I will say that the Apple TV is an incredible product, and it's only $99. It will work great with your TV."
  • Schiller, in response to a rumor that Apple is working on "iLive, the home of the future": "Don't believe everything you read."
  • Cook, responding to a former scientist's request that Apple do more in education by sponsoring engineering and science scholarships: "We believe that education is a great equalizer." The percentage of Apple's matching-gift program going towards education is incredible--"it's just a start, but it's really good and it's really big." "I believe the contributions Apple will make to education will come from our products [such as iBooks Author] because they have a multiplier effect on students and teachers." Cook also noted that last year, Apple provided over $750,000,000 in equipment and equipment discounts to education.
  • Oppenheimer, also on the topic of education: Last summer was Apple's biggest internship program ever, with more than 600 interns on the Cupertino campus alone and many hundreds more around the world.
  • Cook, on the topic of a stock split: History shows that most stock splits don't actually help the stock over the long run; in fact, because of additional transaction costs, it may hurt. However, the company regularly talks about everything that might be in the shareholders' best interests, and will continue to do so.

Cook wrapped up the meeting with a general note of thanks, and a comment clearly designed to tease: "We're working hard as a team this year, and we've got some incredible products that will blow your mind."


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