Inside Apple’s shareholders meeting … well, almost

February 26, 2010

Apple shareholders and reporters convened at One Infinite Loop on Thursday, when the famously secretive company briefly opened its doors for its annual meeting. But any notion of visiting Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the magical place where iPhones and iPads are dreamed up, was dashed at the metal detector that greeted guests at the front door.

Apple’s retail stores may be stocked with tech goodies and wonders, but visiting hours at the Cupertino, CA campus are clearly not meant to be fun.  The building where the event was held was Spartan, save for a table with coffee and a few iPod advertisements on canvases hanging on the walls.

To ensure that CEO Steve Jobs and his lieutenants weren’t molested by pesky journalists, the press was sequestered in a special “overflow” room to watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit TV, with a fistful of Apple staff strategically positioned throughout the chamber to keep an eye on things.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Apple event without a variety of rigid — and seemingly arbitrary —  strictures. Laptops and cameras were forbidden. But smartphones (which Apple presumably understands function both as miniature computers and as cameras) were OK. More confusingly, typing on a smartphone was allowed only if a person stepped outside of the screening room, creating a bit of a challenge for any reporter trying to relay Jobs’ words back to the newsroom. A hawkeyed Apple official sprang forward to drive reporters out of the room at the first sign of fingers on keypad.

Still, for many shareholders, the sight of Jobs, clad in his customary attire of jeans and mock turtleneck, was enough to make the visit worthwhile. One fellow, who described himself as a “Mac Fanatic,” bragged of having hopped a red-eye flight from Connecticut the prior evening in order to make the meeting. Hundreds of others like him showed up, bearing heaps of adulation, suggestions for new products and in at least two cases, turtleneck shirts on their backs.

In less than 90 minutes the whole thing was over, and the guests streamed into the parking lot. In the end, Apple may not have said all that much, but the faithful shareholders will probably be back next year. And so will the reporters.

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