A shareholder voiced concern about Google CEO Eric Schmidt -- who last summer resigned from Apple's board -- using knowledge gained as a board member in order to compete against Apple. Jobs' brief answer was that Schmidt was always professional and recused himself whenever the board discussed areas in which Google and Apple compete.
The company also took some criticism about its management policies. One European shareholder said that the board doesn't provide shareholders with "basic" information about investments, personnel decisions, and potential acquisitions. Jobs said that such matters are management responsibilities, not shareholder ones, and that the management performs such duties "with precision and care -- that's what you pay us for." Another shareholder urged the company to consider more women for executive and board positions; Jobs said it's Apple policy to look for the best people, and that sometimes they're women and sometimes they're men.
Similarly, a shareholder who was also a former member of Apple's UI team asked why no one from Apple was attending this year's national accessibility conference, and asked how Apple keeps up on current issues. Jobs replied that Apple doesn't participate in conferences because then "we wouldn't be here working." He said that Apple's customers do a great job keeping the company informed and reminding the company when it's falling short, and that Apple leads the computing industry in accessibility.
One interesting tidbit for Apple fans in Asia was revealed in response to a question about Apple's efforts to increase international sales. After Jobs mentioned the opening of Apple's first retail store in China, he queried VP of retail Ron Johnson, who was in the audience, about future plans. Johnson said that Apple's goal is to have 24 stores in the country.
Several people referred to Tim Cook's recent presentation at the Goldman Sachs technology conference, where he mentioned that Apple is a mobile device company. Did this mean Apple was ignoring the desktop? Jobs said that Apple is a mobile device company because approximately 95 percent of the devices its customers buy are mobile devices: laptops, iPhones, iPods. However, Apple isn't ignoring the desktop: "We love desktop computers and plan to continue making them."
Jobs even addressed relatively minor issues, such as the recent policy change that prevents user groups from meeting on the Apple campus. He said the company is simply bigger than it used to be and is using more of its own facilities; he also conceded that security issues played a role in the decision. And in response to a question about the best way for users to notify Apple of potential Web-security issues—for example, Google links appearing to be legitimate Apple sites -- Jobs suggested the company should "put up an email address."
As usual, there were also a number of off-beat comments and questions, ranging from suggestions that Apple invest in Tesla Motors (Jobs: "We were thinking of a toga party, actually") to a request for a flagship Apple Store in Cupertino ("I'll pass that on to our retail team"), to a suggestion that Apple partner with Nintendo (strategic alliances are hard, but possible if it's worth it), to a desire for a simple programming language on the iPad ("Something like HyperCard on the iPad? Yes, but someone would have to create it"). Jobs declined to comment on the possibility of a Verizon-network iPhone.
Perhaps the most thoughtful response of the day came when a woman wondered about the biggest challenges the company sees going forward, asking Jobs, "What keeps you up at night?"
"Shareholder meetings," Jobs quickly quipped, before giving the meeting a cold splash of reality.
"Apple requires stability in the world. People aren't going to worry about which laptop to buy if they can't afford dinner, can't afford to send their kids to school, can't afford textbooks. There are things much bigger than us that are out of our control. So we try to just do the best we can."