updated 03:30 pm EST, Thu February 25, 2010
Company plans for 25 Chinese retail stores
Environmental issues played a significant role in today's Apple shareholders meeting, inside accounts say. Although the meeting was notable for the return of CEO Steve Jobs, now said to look "good" despite last year's medical problems, events were quickly upstaged by the Shelton Ehrlich, a Palo Alto man who insisted that Al Gore was ignorant about melting glaciers and other aspects of climate science. Gore, who serves on the Apple board of directors, is also known for his climate change advocacy.
Ehrlich has become an infamous conservative critic at Apple shareholder meetings. In 2009 he accused the room of being "socialists," attempting to "make us slaves to the government." His Thursday speech was countered by other shareholders however, who backed Gore and received applause.
Attendees nevertheless voted down a sustainability measure, one which would have required Apple to provide more thorough accounting of its environmental damage. Another revelation from the meeting is that Apple intends to build at least 25 retail stores in China alone, likely reflecting the country's massive population and its growing wealth amongst some classes. Many European countries have less than a handful of stores.
Jobs is reported by Reuters to have defended the company's approximate $40 billion in cash reserves, saying it offers flexibility and security. The executive also rejected calls for dividends or a stock split, insisting that Apple is so large at this stage that such measures would not influence share prices. He lastly refused to comment either way on the prospect of a Verizon iPhone, expected by some analysts.