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Apple's Tim Cook: We really care about pro users

At its shareholder meeting, Apple promises to "do more in the pro area." Also, Jesse Jackson thanks the company for support "during this difficult season."

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Apple hosts its shareholder meeting at its Infinite Loop campus, likely for the last time.

James Martin/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook really cares about the company's professional users -- even though Apple's Mac desktop computers are overdue for updates.

"You will see us do more in the pro area," Cook said Tuesday during Apple's shareholder meeting in Cupertino, California. "The pro area is very important to us. The creative area is very important to us in particular. Don't think that [because] something we've done or something we're doing that isn't visible yet is a signal that our priorities are elsewhere. It's very, very important to us."

Apple updated the design of its MacBook computers in October for the first time in four years. But some creative professionals have been upset with the changes and have wanted Apple to revamp its desktop computers. The Mac Pro, for instance, hasn't had a major update since its new design was introduced in late 2013.

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This year's shareholder meeting is the last at Apple's Infinite Loop campus. The company plans to start moving 12,000 employees into its new, much larger "spaceship" headquarters,called Apple Park, in April. Apple's headcount has ballooned since its early years, and it has outgrown its current offices at 1 Infinite Loop, which holds about 2,800 employees.

The hot topic at last year's shareholder meeting was Apple's battle with the FBI over unlocking an iPhone used in a terrorist attack. This year's conversation ranged from investor worries about health hazards from wireless technology to questions about Apple's efforts to promote job growth in the US. One shareholder even made a request for Apple to make a "super smart dumb phone" that's round and has a better battery.

"I'm not sure we're going to create a round phone," Cook said.

As usual, Apple didn't provide a video or audio stream of its annual meeting, and reporters weren't allowed in the auditorium with the company's shareholders and executives. Instead, they were required to watch remotely via video in a separate room. Apple executives, like head of software Craig Federighi, and board members, such as former US Vice President Al Gore, watched from the front rows of Apple's Town Hall auditorium.

Each of Apple's eight board members was re-elected, and shareholders approved the company's executive compensation plan. Apple investors also sided with the board and voted against five shareholder proposals. Those proposals included a call by the National Center for Public Policy Research for Apple to disclose more information about its charitable giving and a push to increase the diversity of Apple's board and senior management team. Other shareholder proposals asked Apple to make changes to shareholder proxy access, hire outside experts to reform its executive compensation practices, and require executive team members to hold on to 75 percent of their shares until reaching normal retirement age.

Scott Sherman, an Apple shareholder for the past couple years, said he's confident about Apple's position going forward. "I think it's going to be a good few years ahead, but they need to sort of dust off and jump at it," he said.

Policy, not politics

Rev. Jesse Jackson, a leader in the civil rights movement, was in the audience again this year. Cook asked him to make a few comments before Apple kicked off the Q&A from shareholders.

Workers from Apple's Caffe Macs give coffee to investors ahead of the company's shareholder meeting.

Shara Tibken/CNET

Jackson thanked Cook and Apple for its support "during this difficult season."

"The content of our character is really at stake," Jackson said. "We cannot submit or surrender to that definition" of America by "white Christian" nationalists, he said.

Apple has been outspoken over the past couple of months about steps taken by President Donald Trump since his inauguration. It joined the dozens of tech companies that opposed the president's executive order that banned immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. It also criticized Trump's decision to roll back federal protections for transgender students in schools.

On Tuesday, Apple kicked off its shareholder meeting with a short video. It included photos, shot on an iPhone 7, of diverse people with a voiceover talking about the importance of diversity. "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike," the clip says.

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Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking with CNET after Apple's shareholder meeting, thanked Apple CEO Tim Cook for his support on social issues.

James Martin/CNET

Cook said Apple is proud of the efforts it's made to increase diversity at the company. He also said Apple has created 2 million jobs in the US, with 1.4 million of them app developers. And two-thirds of Apple's employees are based in the US.

"Having said all of that, we're always looking for more ways we could help the country," Cook said. "We know Apple could only exist in the US. This company never could have been founded somewhere else. We love this country and we'll continue to look for ways to expand and help in any way that we can."

One shareholder asked Cook whether Apple will fight to preserve net neutrality, something that likely will be changed under Trump's administration. Cook said Apple believes all content should be treated the same, but he said Apple doesn't play the role of a lobbyist.

"We don't like politics," Cook said, which got some applause from shareholders. But "we do know that playing a role in policy discussions is good. And [it's] a very important [role] for us to play. We stay out of politics but into policy."

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Update at 3:30 p.m. PT: Adds shareholder comment.