AAPL shareholders meeting recap: Tim Cook talks COVID19, App Store regulation, and more

Apple held its annual shareholders meeting today, this time completely virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook took questions from investors on topics such as the company’s response to the pandemic, political contributions, and more. Head below for our recap.

One important thing to keep in mind is that proposals and questions from shareholders aren’t always the most technically inclined. Instead, you get a lot of broad, general, and oftentimes misinformed questions and proposals.

This year, things were even drier than usual because the virtual setup of the event allowed Apple to screen questions easily, so nothing outlandish ended up being asked directly to CEO Tim Cook. In the past, the shareholders meeting has been held in-person at Steve Jobs Theater.

AAPL shareholders meeting recap

During his opening remarks, Apple Cook touched broadly on Apple’s performance throughout 2020. This included Apple’s record-setting holiday quarter, the M1 Mac lineup, Apple TV+ receiving award nominations, and the company’s focus on privacy.

Following the opening remarks, we moved into a question and answer session. Below, you’ll find transcripts of Cook’s responses to the more notable questions.

On Apple’s response to remote work during the pandemic:

“We’ve been primarily remote since March of last year. We’ve got nearly a year under our belt right now, and I would tell you we’re still learning new things. I would say that I’m incredibly impressed with our teams and their resiliency. The fact that we have had this remarkable run of innovation and creativity of the past year is a testament to their work, undertaking during a really challenging time.

There’s enormous benefit to getting teams together in the office, but when the pandemic made business as usual impossible, we innovated and adapted. Sometimes we found more and better ways to collaborate across teams and reach our customers virtually. I still think there’s no substitute for meeting face to face, but we’ve also found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually. We’ve used this unusual time as an opportunity to help challenge the status quo. We’re developing new skills, capacities, and flexibility that will serve us incredibly well in the long run.

Despite a global pandemic, we had one of our most prolific years ever, with virtual launch events that let us share our strongest lineup of products ever with the world. And at the same time, we’ve used our skills to support our communities at a time of need. “

On political contributions:

“Our policy on political contributions is a very simple one: we don’t make them. We don’t have a political action committee, we never have, we never will. Our approach to engagement, now and always, is about policy, not politics. There are places where that means we will speak up and speak out. We’re not in the business of making political contributions and that’s the right approach.”

On Apple TV+:

“Our approach to Apple TV+ from the very beginning has been on telling stories that matter. We see streaming as an arena with room for several players. We want to stand apart by lifting up high quality content that spotlights the humanity we hold in common.

I think you can see the strong response to that in a number of different ways, whether it’s the incredible word of mouth spread for shows like Ted Lasso, or the remarkable run of more than 240 award nominations.”

On the possibility of regulation impacting the App Store:

“In a little over a decade, the App Store has delivered a software revolution for users and an economic miracle for millions of entrepreneurs, creators, small businesses, and successful larger developers. Our focus now is to carry forward the success of the App Store ecosystem and make it even stronger through efforts like the App Store Small Business Program.

Apple doesn’t have a dominant position in any market we compete in. Not in any product category, not in any service category, and not in software or apps. This competitive marketplace pushes all of us to be better. So while scrutiny is always fair, accusations like these fall apart after a reasonable examination of the facts.”

On Apple Stores amid the pandemic:

“Our incredible retail teams have been innovative, agile, and adaptive throughout COVID-19. Our very first priority is keeping everyone safe and healthy so that we can continue to serve our customers in every way. We look forward to reopening our stores in more places.”

On additional fiscal stimulus in the United States:

“I think the first priority of any stimulus should be about helping people. While I’m not an economist or a forecaster, making sure people get support during challenging times like this is critical. The priority should be a stimulus that helps people and lays the foundation for equitable economic growth.”

On Apple’s response to the severe weather in Texas:

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with everyone in Texas and across the United States who has been impacted, including many of our team members. As I’ve said previously, Appel will be donating to support relief organizations on the ground and our people and global security teams are staying in close contact with affected employees, and offering our support.

To see so many people lose power or access to clean water, the devastation is very real, on par with what you see from some earthquakes or hurricanes. Extreme weather events like this are only becoming more frequent. In the longer-term, I think it will be absolutely crucial to make sure we have the strongest possible systems in place to limit the damage these events can do. From prevention and forward planning, to relief efforts on the ground, to investments in energy systems that are equal parts renewable and resilient.”

On the challenges ahead in 2021:

“I don’t see obstacles so much as opportunity. Make no mistake, they’re opportunities we’ll have to manage creatively, intelligently, and diligently as a business. We’re not taking them for granted. Really, we’re excited about them.

Looking across the product lineups, I don’t think we’ve ever had a better set of products with a greater degree of future potential. Whether you look at the first generation of 5G iPhones, the awesome potential of the M1 chip in the hands of our users, the remarkable ability of the Apple Watch to look out for your health, and the way in which all of these devices are deeply integrated with the software that brings them to life, and a growing portfolio of services that our users love and depend on.

Almost a year ago, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I said that I don’t think there’s ever been a more challenging environment in which we’ve operated Apple as a business. But a year later, I do think you have to pause and say “wow.” The degree to which all of our teams everywhere pulled together, rose to the equation, helped each other through it, I don’t think you can hope for more than that and you certainly couldn’t ask for it.

After the year we have all gone through, I am greatly optimistic about the future, and for all of us at Apple, we’re thinking deeply as always about how we can help our communities emerge from this stronger, how recovery from this can be fair and equitable, and how all of that can be helped by world-class technology that puts humanity at its heart.”

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