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Apple Annual Shareholder Meeting 2024, AI Investments

Apple CEO Tim Cook (2nd R) greets customers as he arrives for the release of the Vision Pro headset at the Apple Store in New York City on February 2, 2024.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Wednesday that his company is pouring money into artificial intelligence, one of the strongest signals yet that the iPhone maker is embracing the generative AI craze that’s consumed the tech industry.

The company sees “incredible breakthrough potential for generative AI, which is why we’re currently investing significantly in this area,” Cook said at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting, which was held virtually. “We believe it will unlock transformative opportunities for our users when it comes to productivity, problem solving and more.”

Apple hasn’t unveiled competing products to models like OpenAI’s GPT or Google’s Gemini, but he teased a major announcement coming this year.

“Later this year, I look forward to sharing with you the ways we will break new ground in generative AI, another technology we believe can redefine the future,” Cook said.

Cook also reframed several announced Apple products as “AI-powered,” to emphasize that the company has been working on the technology for years. In the past, the company tended to avoid the term AI in favor of machine learning.

Current features that use Apple’s AI technology include the Vision Pro’s hand tracking tool and Apple Watch’s heart rate alerts, Cook said. He also said that Apple’s chips inside its MacBooks are capable of running AI.

“AI is woven into our users’ lives for all sorts of tasks, from the everyday to the essential,” Cook said. “AI allows Apple Watch to help you track your workouts, automatically detecting whether you’re taking a walk or going for a swim. It enables your iPhone to call for help if you’re in a car accident.”

Apple often announces new software products and features in June at its annual developer’s conference.

At the meeting, Cook was not asked about the Apple Car project, which he’d previously called the “mother of all AI projects.” Employees were told on Tuesday that the program was being disbanded.

In response to a general question about what products the company chooses to release, Cook said “much of this is about focus.”

The remarks came after Apple shareholders rejected a proposal that would compel the company to produce a report on AI risks.

The proposal submitted by the AFL-CIO Index Funds was read at the meeting by Apple retail employee and union organizer Michael Forsythe and would have pushed the company to disclose ethical guidelines for AI. Apple opposed the effort, claiming such a move could disclose company secrets.

At the meeting, shareholders approved Apple’s board of directors, including electing former Aerospace CEO Wanda Austin, who is joining as Al Gore and James Bell retire. Shareholders also approved the company’s auditor and executive pay.

Five separate independent shareholder proposals opposed by Apple were rejected, including the AI report.

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