Obama tech dinner photos offer fodder for Silicon Valley Kremlinologists

February 18, 2011

ObamaCarIt’s Kremlinology day in Silicon Valley as industry-watchers pore over the details of the two photographs released by the White House of President Obama’s big dinner with the lords of the tech world.

Who sat where, who was drinking what, and what does it all signify, were among the top questions under debate the morning after the commander-in-chief and fourteen guests broke bread at the house of venture capitalist John Doerr.

If proximity to the president is the key measure of clout, then Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Steve Jobs won top honors, with both executives flanking Obama at the dinner table, as can be seen in this picture.

The White House denied press photographers access to the event, so Reuters and several other media outlets are not publishing the photos. But you can find them here.

Whether the White House’s official dinner-table photo was deliberately shot from an angle to show only Jobs’ back was a subject of speculation, coming a day after the National Enquirer published photos which seemed to show Jobs — who is currently on medical leave from Apple — outside a cancer center looking particularly frail.

Also widely noted was the fact that 26-year old Facebook founder Zuckerberg, known for a firm attachment to sporting a “hoodie” sweatshirt at all times, saw fit to don a suit for the occasion.

And what to make of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was seated all the way at the end of the table? Schmidt of course serves on Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, so he may simply have thought it courteous to let others have some time with the prez.

But the second photo provides more fodder for speculation, at a time when some wonder whether Facebook could replace Google as the world’s most influential tech power. The picture appears to show Obama engrossed in deep conversation with Zuckerberg. In the foreground, one finds the blurry visage of Schmidt, outside of the conversation and appearing to be biting his lip.

Some blogs pointed to key tech players not in the tent (Intel CEO Paul Otellini? Though he has been tapped to serve on the president’s newly created advisory council on the economy), and the San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting chart outlining the guests’ political contributions to political parties and to Obama.

See any other interesting clues in the photo? Let us know…

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