Reverend Jesse Jackson urged Apple CEO Tim Cook to hire more Black and Latino workers at the company's annual shareholder meeting – just moments after a diversity plan that would tie executive compensation to meeting greater diversity goals was defeated by a 95 per cent No vote.
"I want to address the immigration, H‑1B issue," Jackson said at the meeting on Apple's Silicon Valley campus. "Yes, we stand against any attempt to demonize and threaten immigrants who have come to the US under H1‑B visas ... But just as there are talented immigrants working in tech from India or China, there are talented, innovative, and dedicated people in our Black and Latino communities here in the US – let's educate, train, and hire from everywhere!"
"We are focused on human rights and diversity; advocating for it around the world and increasing it in our own community," Cook told shareholders. But Apple remains an overwhelmingly white, male company. Its non-white workforce grew by a single percentage point last year, while white employees increased by two per cent to 56 per cent. The company is 68 per cent male.
And the rest
Very little else tangible came out of the meeting, which saw shareholders ask sometimes probing and occasionally pointless questions of Cook.
Cook gave a number of vague answers to real concerns about Apple's future, in particular: its ability to find a new product line to help balance the company's over-reliance on the iPhone as a source of revenue, and its seeming focus on consumers to the exclusion of the company's traditional customer base of professional designers and content producers.
Cook said that Apple has a number of new products coming that would be "essential to Apple's growth," and said it was investing heavily in R&D. But when pressed on details he simply said it was "future stuff" that he couldn't talk about.
As for pro users – who are increasingly unhappy with Apple's lackadaisical updates to their product line, including a MacBook Pro that came with a huge price tag but mediocre performance – Cook also offered some future generalizations.
"You will see us do more in the pro area," he said. "The pro area is very important to us. The creative area is very important to us in particular."
Worryingly however, he continued to push the Apple belief that the iPad will replace people's laptops. And in reference to the Mac, he said simply that the iPad was "not a Mac replacement; the Mac does so much more." Yes it does, that's sort of the point, Tim.
Cook also tried his hand at Jobs reality distortion when he argued that the wireless earphone AirPods that are needed for a new iPhone 7 because, you know, they "courageously" killed off the 3.5mm audio jack, were "quite the cultural phenomenon." Maybe in parts of Cupertino, Tim, but not outside the Apple-bubble they're not.
Asked about net neutrality and the clear plan by FCC chair Ajit Pai to kill it off, Cook said he felt that all content online should be treated the same but wasn't sure the Trump Administration had a clear position on it yet (he no doubt hadn't heard Pai's speech in Barcelona earlier in the day). Apple will "stay out of politics but stay in policy," he said, adding, "if net neutrality became a top thing, we would definitely engage in it."
If there was any saving grace it was that Apple execs didn't try to pretend, for once, that the Apple Watch is the next big thing.
None of the proposals put forward by Apple investors passed. They included: increasing transparency around Apple's charitable donations; a reform of executive compensation; and a proposal that senior execs would be required to hold 60 per cent of their stock until they retired. ®