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'Ignorant' Blair meets Apple boss

PM enjoys chinwag with Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs lunched with UK prime minister Tony Blair yesterday, when Blair visited Silicon Valley.

The prime minister said: "I'm here today in listening mode, as long as you treat me as ignorant." He said he was interested in how the Silicon Valley culture fosters entrepreneurism.

"We're trying in our way in Britain to make sure the UK is a dynamic, innovative country," Blair told his lunchtime gathering of technology leaders, which also included representatives from Intel rival AMD, Adobe and Sun.

The technologists recommended Blair and other politicians keep a blog. The notoriously secret Jobs doesn't blog, at least publicly.

On his blog, Jonathan Schwartz of computer maker Sun Microsystems reported: "The conversation ranged across a variety of topics, from education to cultural competitive advantage, to the government's engagement in delivery of social services via the network."

Schwartz pointed out that nearly everyone in the room was the product of a state-funded school education. Jobs then pointed out how few of the business leaders were sending their children to state schools.

Risky business

The US business leaders told Blair one of the reasons for Silicon Valley's success was that risk-taking was viewed as a virtue.

"In the US and especially in Silicon Valley, if you have taken a risk and you fail, you in fact become more interesting and potentially more valuable because now you know something," said Schwartz. "Frankly, if you hop over the pond [to Europe] you end up with a very, very different perception of risk and how risk should be viewed."

Shantanu Narayen, president of software maker Adobe, added: "If you looked at the people around the room, a number of us had gone from company to company and each of us probably had one massive failure, whether it was a company we founded or a project we invested in, and yet that really didn't get in the way of us or the companies achieving the success that they have."

Reuters reports Schwartz citing the close ties between Silicon Valley companies and the region's universities. The high-tech industry grew up around Stanford University and many companies also have ties with the University of California, Berkeley.

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