Apple executives painted a rosy picture of the company’s future at its annual shareholders’ meeting Wednesday - an event notable largely for the absence of Steve Jobs, who missed the meeting for the first time since returning to Apple as CEO more than a decade ago

With Jobs currently on medical leave until the end of June, the health of Apple’s CEO was very much on the minds of attendees at the shareholders’ meeting. In fact, it was the subject of the first thing asked when company executives opened the floor to shareholder questions.

A shareholder asked whether Apple’s board of directors had kept investors in the dark about the status of Jobs’ health and inquired about a succession plan.

Board member Arthur Levinson, who is also chairman and CEO of biotech firm Genentech, replied that the board disclaims information that it deems important and proper, and that it talks regularly about a succession plan.

Otherwise, the meeting served largely to have executives assure shareholders that the company was on the right track. Filling in for Jobs - and donning a Jobs-like pair of blue jeans and black (though collared, not turtleneck) shirt - chief operating officer Tim Cook cited strong Mac, iPod, and iPhone sales in the last year and hailed the App Store as “absolutely the envy of the industry.”

He also reassured shareholders that he was “very confident of our product pipeline.”

Apple executives assured shareholders that the company was on the right track with a range of Apple products available.

The business portion of the meeting was uneventful with shareholders re-electing Apple’s eight-member board of directors, though an audience member spoke out against board member Al Gore, seated in the front row, because of a fundraising controversy involving the former US vice president during the 1996 presidential election.

(In fact, with shareholder proposals involving political spending, health care reform, and the environment on the agenda, Gore’s name came up almost as often as Jobs’ during the hour-and-15-minute meeting.)

As for the shareholder proposals, preliminary results indicated that all four were voted down Wednesday, as Apple’s board of directors had recommended.

One proposal had asked for Apple to annually disclose political contributions while another asked for a similar report on sustainability. A third proposal called on Apple to enact health care reform using principles recommended by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine. The final proposal would have let shareholders approve compensation of Apple’s top executives.

NEXT: Apple Q-and-A session

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