Tuesday, March 4, 2008

2008 Apple Annual Shareholders' Meeting

I always enjoy attending Apple's shareholder meetings. Apple's meetings are like no other company's annual meetings, except for possibly Berkshire Hathaway. People today who asked questions traveled from Wyoming, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. I asked a question about Adobe's relationship with Apple and why the iPhone was incompatible with Adobe's flash technology. Steve Jobs responded that the Adobe flash was too slow to be used in the iPhone, and thus far, no one had developed a similar technology that could be applied to smaller devices such as the iPhone that did not suffer from a loss of speed. He reiterated that Apple used Adobe extensively in its Macs and that the relationship was fine, and the iPhone issue was not an Adobe-specific issue because no company had the necessary technology.

Apple's meetings are fun because people feel comfortable enough to make comments as well as questions. Today, an older shareholder mentioned that last year he came with a tie, and this year, he had learned not to let his "generational handicap" get in the way and came tie-less (I actually wore a tie but was the only person I saw wearing one). Others asked specific questions about technology. What makes Steve Jobs so special is that he seems to know all of the features and quirks of his products, even to the most minute detail. As a result, Apple attracts a lot of smart shareholders who love the technology and can't wait to ask Mr. Jobs questions.

Apple's board of directors included Al Gore, who attended today. When he entered the room, most people started clapping. He has gained some weight and looks like a football linebacker--big, with a presence.

One shareholder proposal on executive compensation actually passed, causing Mr. Jobs to crack, "I hope you can help me with my one dollar annual salary." Comments like these make Mr. Jobs a joy to watch--even when he loses something, he still lets you know he's right, and he's on top of the matter. In someone less charismatic and prepared, this attitude would be insufferable. But Steve Jobs, in creating a viable competitor to Microsoft, has the allegiance of all the "Macheads," who view him as a genius sent from the tech heavens. In fact, almost every year, someone inquires about what will happen to Apple if he leaves or "gets hit by a bus."

At the end of the meeting, I went to shake Steve Jobs' hand. He is a wiry fellow, much trimmer than he looks on television. Immediately after the meeting, he went in a corner to talk with Eric Schmidt of Google before coming down to chat with the shareholders. Perhaps he was talking about a new Google-Apple product. With Steve Jobs, you always wonder what the next big thing is going to be, and that's the wonder of being an Apple shareholder and user.

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