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Jobs, Zuckerberg get prime spots at Obama dinner

Undisclosed medical condition doesn't keep Apple CEO from Silicon Valley dinner

February 18, 2011 02:50 PM ET

Computerworld - President Obama met with the CEOs of several high-profile technology companies, including Steve Jobs of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, in a private dinner Thursday night in Silicon Valley.

The dinner was closed to the press, but the White House released a short video clip and a pair of photographs.

Obama and tech CEOs
Some of Silicon Valley's most prominent CEOs dined with President Obama Thursday night. (Image: The White House)

In one photo, Jobs and Zuckerberg flanked Obama at the dinner table in the Woodside, Calif. home of venture capitalist John Doerr. In that photo, Jobs' face could not be seen, as he had his back to the camera.

Jobs' appearance has been the matter of intense speculation this week as reports claimed he was looking frail and that he had been spotted at the Stanford Cancer Center, where some claimed he is undergoing treatment.

The Apple CEO has been on medical leave since January, when he announced he was stepping away "so I can focus on my health."

Unlike in 2009, when Jobs took a six-month leave to receive a liver transplant, he did not set a return date last month.

Apple COO Tim Cook has been leading the company in Jobs' absence, as he did in 2009.

Others at the dinner were Cisco CEO John Chambers, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.

Art Levinson, chairman and former CEO of Genentech, also dined with Obama. Levinson is on the Apple board of directors.

According to the Associated Press, White House press secretary Jay Carney said after the dinner that Obama exchanged ideas with the business leaders "so we can work as partners to promote growth and create good jobs in the United States." Carney also said Obama discussed research and development spending proposals with the CEOs.

Google's Schmidt was seated at one end of the table, Bartz at the other, while Ellison sat across the table from Obama.

Not present at the dinner were big-name technology CEOs including Intel's Paul Otellini, HP's Leo Apotheker and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. Ballmer, however, met with the president last month and attended a state dinner for visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Obama is slated to meet with Otellini later today when he tours an Intel chip fabrication plant in Hillsboro, Ore.

As of 2:45 p.m. Friday, Apple shares were down $7.48, or 2%, from the opening bell. Some experts have said that renewed talk of Jobs' health -- and Apple's refusal to make public a succession plan -- have contributed to the price decline.

"In many ways, people who have purchased stock in Apple were really buying into the vision, talents and unquestioned leadership of Steve Jobs," said Michael Robinson, who heads the corporate and public affairs practice at Washington, D.C.-based crisis communications company Levick Strategic Communications, in a Thursday blog. "Now, those holding shares in the nation's second most valuable company simply don't know if, or for how long, that leadership will continue to pay dividends."

Robinson said that it's likely investors will pressure the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to craft new rules that would define CEO health issues as "material," and thus require public disclosure.

U.S. President Barack Obama was in Silicon Valley on Thursday night to meet a handful of the biggest names in the tech industry.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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