Seven facts about Obama's Silicon Valley dinner

President Barack Obama held a dinner this week with a number of Silicon Valley tech executives. Here are some facts about the invites and non-invites.

Why was Obama sitting next to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg?

Obama was overcompensating. Facebook isn't a real company by Washington standards. It is a middling employer whose executives gather to discuss the variants of relationship status. It doesn't make a thing. It doesn't need a thing.* But Zuckerberg's take on Facebook as a networking tool to help foster revolution may make for interesting dinner conversation.

Why wasn't IBM's Sam Palmisano at the dinner?

Palmisano knows exactly where the president is coming from. He has spreadsheets. He has talking computers. His company makes 40% of the world's top 500 supercomputers. He doesn't need dinner. If Palmisano needs to speak to the president, it will happen. This applies to Hewlett-Packard as well, which was also off the guest list.

Why was Steve Jobs seated next to Obama?

Obama seems genuinely intriqued by Steve Jobs and Apple. He repeatedly cites this company as an example of American innovation. But Jobs keeps a Zen-like distance from DC.

Why was Google's Eric Schmidt, a DC insider, at the dinner?

Schmidt was acting as Obama's wingman** in the event Zuckerberg mentioned Farmville.

Why was Oracle's Larry Ellison at this dinner?

Ellison is a geniune tech titan running an ever expanding company who may also be something of a mystery to Obama. Ellison is colorful and outspoken. His company lobbies heavily***, but Ellison keeps his distance from Washington. Obama may be trying to change that. Seating arrangements with the president have a reason, and at this dinner Ellison sat directly across from Obama.

Why did they have dinner at John Doerr's house?

John Doerr is to venture capital what Steven Spielberg is to movies and Obama needs his help. Doerr has been a particularly strong advocate of Obama's push for green investment. In the fight over the federal budget, Obama may be counting on Doerr to raise warnings about some of the cuts being championed by Republicans.

Why wasn't Microsoft on the invite list?

Obama has met with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. In fact, Ballmer has been at the White House twice this year. He has tapped Gates, in particular, for help on a range of issues. This Silicon Valley dinner may been more about getting some people, Jobs and Ellison in particular, to play a more active role on policy issues.

* Facebook spent $351,000 in lobbying last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

** Schmidt serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He was also on Obama's transition advisory board.

*** Oracle spent $4.85 million last year on lobbying, number four among the top tech firms. Microsoft led at $6.9 million; HP at $6.45 million, and Google, at $5.16 million.  Apple was 21st., at $1.61 million; Cisco, whose CEO John Chambers was also at the dinner, was 16th in lobbying spending, at $2 million.

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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