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Upbeat shareholders descend on Apple

Often a forum for angst, today's shareholder meeting is expected to be an upbeat review of a strong year. But with Steve Jobs involved, surprises can never be ruled out.

Apple Computer shareholders will gather today at the company's annual meeting, an event that is expected to be upbeat following a turn-around year.

Often a forum for angst and controversy in past years, the shareholder meeting in Cupertino, California, will address, among many issues, the company's recent profitability and increasing market share following the release of the colorful iMac computer. Steve Jobs, interim CEO, will speak at the event.

Surprises, of course, can never be ruled out with Apple. Last year, fallout from the termination of the Newton and hints about the iMac made for a lively meeting. A remaining open question that could be resolved today: will Steve Jobs finally take over as permanent CEO?

Also on the schedule: Shareholders will vote on the re-election of Bill Campbell, chairman of the board of Intuit, Gareth Chang, executive chairman of StarTV, and Jerome York, vice chairman of Tracinda, to the company's board of directors. Also, they will vote to have each director stand for election to the board on an annual basis.

This is a far cry from past, high-impact Apple meetings. In August of 1997, five board members resigned amid concerns about ineffective management of a company that was bleeding red ink. (See related story.) Changes to the board's composition have largely quieted complaints of large shareholders such as CalPERS. In 1996, a rowdy shareholder's meeting led to the downfall of then CEO Michael Spindler.

Now, with more than a full year of profits under its belt, the meeting is expected to be largely uneventful, but Jobs, who has officially been interim CEO since September of 1997, is famous for offering up surprises at a moment's notice.

For instance, at last year's meeting, Jobs hinted at major announcements in the coming months regarding the company's consumer strategy. In May, the iMac was announced. When the colorful computer was rolled out in August, it took the computing industry by storm.

A major theme at last year's shareholder meeting was Jobs' decision to discontinue the Newton platform, which frustrated Newton's user and development community. With plans for a consumer portable on tap for this year, Jobs could use the occasion to offer similar hints about how the company will compete in that and other market segments, although Apple product rollouts are typically tied to trade shows and events other than the shareholder's meeting.

The meeting will take place at Apple headquarters in Cupertino and is slated to start at 10 a.m.