For shareholder meeting, Apple bans laptops, cell phones

Annual meeting expected to draw questions about dividends, Foxconn plant probe

Is this standard procedure for Apple?

A tweet Thursday afternoon from Fortune writer Miguel Helft reads:

At apple's annual shareholder meeting. Don't expect too many tweets. They took away laptops and phones not allowed in room

Where's that "1984" Mac ad when you need it?

Again, maybe this is what Apple does every year for its annual meeting with shareholders, whom the late Steve Jobs mostly considered an annoyance.

There are two items worth noting that should come up at the meeting. One is the topic of dividends. Apple hasn't paid shareholder dividends since the early 1990s, choosing instead to plow money back into the business.

But some Apple shareholders look at other companies paying out dividends and naturally ask, "Why not us?" Good question, given that Apple is sitting on about $100 billion in cash.

Who knows if Apple will change its long-standing tradition. UBS Wealth Management Group reported recently that Apple has been asking large shareholders whether it's time for a dividend. I'd say divided opinions means a "no," while widespread support for a dividend payout means a "maybe." Apple has a new CEO in Tim Cook, and it's hard to predict what he and the rest of the board will do.

The more interesting topic at Thursday's shareholder meeting, however, is the situation at Foxconn, the manufacturing plant in China that is being investigated for abuse of workers and has generated a lot of negative publicity for Apple.

An independent audit of Foxconn conducted at Apple's request by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) reportedly has turned up "tons of issues." As Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng notes, "it seems likely that Apple CEO Tim Cook will be asked by labor groups to address working conditions at Apple's suppliers" during Thursday's meeting.

If things turn confrontational, it could lead to some tense moments -- tense moments that the world will never see because they can't be recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

"Just leave your laptops and cell phones with us. We'll keep them safe for when you need them outside the conference room. Enjoy the meeting!"

Thank you, Big Brother.

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