By Alexei Oreskovic
CUPERTINO, California (Reuters) - Apple Inc Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the company sold more than $1 billion (596 million pounds) worth of Apple TV set-top boxes in 2013 and reassured shareholders at the annual meeting that the company is investing heavily in the next generation of products.
"We're working on some things that are extensions of things you can see and some that you can't see," Cook said at the annual shareholders' meeting on Friday, referring to a 32 percent increase in research and development costs last year.
Cook said Apple has acquired 23 company in the last 16 months and remained on the lookout for interesting technology and companies. While Apple is not "in a race" to acquire the most companies or to spend the most money, that "doesn't mean we won't buy a huge company tomorrow afternoon," he said.
Apple will provide an update about how it will use its massive cash pile, which was nearly $160 billion at the end of last quarter, within the next 60 days, Cook said. The time frame is in line with previous comments that the company would announce its latest cash management plans around April.
Apple repurchased $14 billion in stock in a two-week period earlier this year, under pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn, who had been publicly calling for the iPhone-maker to buy back an additional $50 billion of stock above its existing buyback program.
Icahn withdrew a shareholder proposal for the buyback following Apple's announcement of the $14 billion in stock repurchases. Icahn in late January said that he held more than $4 billion in Apple shares.
Shareholders at the annual meeting at Apple's Cupertino headquarters on Friday re-elected all of Apple's board members.
Apple shares were down 0.6 percent at $524.47 in midday trading on Friday. The shares have clawed back substantial ground since falling below $400 in June, though they are well below the record-high $700 level of 2012, weighed by concerns about whether the company has any new hit products in the pipeline.
Some investors have expected Apple to unveil a wearable device, such as a smartwatch, or a new-fangled television that integrates Internet capabilities.
Cook did not provide any details on new products during his presentation to shareholders, but said the company's existing $99 AppleTV set-top box -- long referred to as a "hobby" by Apple executives -- had racked up $1 billion in sales in the past year.
"It's a little more difficult to call it a hobby these days," Cook said.
In response to a shareholder question about innovation, Cook said that Apple preferred not to tip its hand about new products under development so as not to tip off the competition. "You can see we're getting ripped off left, right and sideways," he said.
Cook also used the event to take pot shots at Google Inc, saying that the majority of users of Google's rival Android mobile operating system are using older versions of the software, presenting a security threat. In contrast, he said that 89 percent of people using devices based on Apple's iOS operating system are using the most recent version of the software.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Leslie Adler)