Why wasn't Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer invited to Obama's innovation dinner?

President Obama is meeting tonight with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, among others. Given that the dinner is being hailed as a discussion of the president's efforts to promote innovation, and not just as a dinner for leaders in Silicon Valley, why was Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer left off the list?

The New York Times reports that in addition Jobs, Schmidt, and Zuckerberg, other guests will be Carol Bartz, president and C.E.O., Yahoo; John Chambers, C.E.O. and chairman, Cisco Systems; Dick Costolo, C.E.O., Twitter; Larry Ellison, co-founder and C.E.O., Oracle; Reed Hastings, C.E.O., NetFlix; John Hennessy, president of Stanford University; Art Levinson, chairman and former C.E.O., Genentech; and Steve Westly, managing partner and founder, the Westly Group; and venture capitalist John Doerr. The dinner is being held at Doerr's home.

All participants work for companies in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco area, so that's an obvious reason to leave out Ballmer. But innovation transcends geography, so limiting it to just those in that area doesn't make a lot of sense. It's not a particularly long plane flight from Seattle to San Francisco, after all. And some invitees are coming in from much further away than Seattle --- Schmidt, for example, was in Barcelona on Tuesday for the Mobile World Congress, then traveled to Berlin on Wednesday talk about Google One Pass.

Over at ZDNet, Larry Dignan has a list of other tech leaders he thought should have been invited to the dinner, including Ballmer, CEO of IBM Sam Palmisano, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Clearly, all these people, including Ballmer, were left out because the White House decided that geography would trump innovation. But there's symbolism at work here as well --- the idea that innovation resides primarily in the Silicon Valley, which clearly isn't the case. Obama would do well to host similar dinners throughout the country.

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

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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