If you think that Steve Jobs' big contribution to American culture is the Mac or the iPhone, you didn't see Howard Schultz's performance at this morning's Starbucks shareholders meeting.
In a clear, passionate two-hour presentation—remarkably familiar to anyone who has seen an Apple keynote—Schultz wooed a packed house of worried stockholders (Starbucks stock has drifted down from 32 a year ago to 17 as of this morning) with video clips, third-party endorsements, flashy new hardware (two coffee machines) and tasty wetware (Pike Market blend). He even led into his announcement of the acquisition of the Clover French-press technology with Jobs' trademark keynote teaser "One more thing..." And, in contrast to last year's kinda lame video chat with Sir Paul McCartney, Schultz brought his friend K. D. Lang onstage for a soulful and highly appropriate rendition of "In Cold Dark Places (I Think of Spring)."
In Jobs' 1997 letter to shareholders, he asked rhetorically "how does a company manage to lose a BILLION dollars?"
Schultz was similarly blunt, and similarly disarming, announcing shortly after he took the stage that "performance has not met your expectations. Or mine."
Will the Starbucks CEO pull off as amazing a turnaround as Jobs did in his legendary return to Apple? I came away convinced that he will. And that's what the presentation game is all about, isn't it?
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