I’m an insufferable bore this week as I namedrop my way through D6 – All Things Digital. Melinda Gates’ interview at d6.allthingsd.com, Dean Kamen’s interview at d6.allthingsd.com. Link to all of my photos at flickr.com/nosillacast.. Then Bart and I talk about the fixes on 10.5.3 (especially spaces) – Bart’s blog post about it. Then we discuss why I think Flickr is weird and hard to understand and why he thinks it’s marvelous.
Listen to the Podcast Once (58 min 56)
[tags]D6, All Things Digital, Mossberg, Swisher, Wall Street Journal, Gates, Ballmer[/tags]
Today is Sunday June 1st, 2008, and this is show number 154. I sure hope you have a LOT of time to hang out with me today because it’s a big show today.
This week I had the opportunity to attend the Wall Street Journal’s 6th annual All Things Digital conference (affectionately called D6) hosted by Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher. If you’ve been listening to this show since the very beginning, you’ll know this is the fourth time I’ve gotten to attend. I went back and looked at my show notes and episodes 2, 3, and 4 are all from the D conference. If you have been following the show that long, you’ll ALSO know that I become an insufferable name dropper for a couple of weeks after the show! It’s not my fault, the attendees alone are enough to make your head spin much less the speakers themselves!
Let me set the stage with a small example. The first night I’m standing in the buffet line to get some macaroni & cheese (served in a martini glass to make it look snooty) and i turn around and the guy behind me is Bill Gates. SERIOUSLY. Bill Gates, pickin’ up some Mac & Cheese. See how hard it will be for me to be amongst mere mortals for a while? don’t worry, I won’t forget the little people who made me who I am today!
The opening sessions featured Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer on stage discussing their early years, how they worked together with Bill as the boss, and how difficult the transition was during the first year when Steve was the boss of Bill. That was eight years ago and now they’ve gotten into a groove and are prepared for Bill to start pulling back as he goes into part time status.
While I didn’t get a whole lot of substance out of the discussion with Gates & Ballmer, but the main theme song Ballmer sang was that Microsoft can do a lot better. He said that several times, perhaps to deflect arrows if he’s already saying they’re not perfect. Walt pushed them about Vista, and Ballmer said it could have gone better, but that in all other big OS transitions, they’ve had two OS’s in the stream – like when they had Windows ’98 and 2000 both in place as they moved to XP. Just about the only excuse they gave. Walt pushed them to blame the hardware partners for the craplets loaded on new machines making Vista look like it launches slower than a Mac. They didn’t jump on that surprisingly.
what WAS surprising was that they did a demo of Windows 7! I was terrified for the woman doing the demo because I was just certain something would go wrong, but luckily it didn’t. She showed their use of a touch screen as a user interface. She showed essentially what you can do on an iPhone today – using her hands to move photos around on a screen and zoom in and out. She did make one good crack, she said to buy stock in screen cleaners! She got flack from Walt that Apple also has this technology using the track pad instead on currently shipping Macs. I starting thinking beyond what they showed though – that’s the snaz, but what if you could just reach out and drag windows out of the way instead of using a mouse, or a trackpad. I could picture that being really useful in the future.
One of the highlights of Microsoft being at this show every year is they show their internal fun videos they make, all just as a joke. I WISH these would make in online but they never do. This one was showing what Bill will be doing after retirement, and it shows him in the gym being trained by Matthew McConaughey – it was hysterical because of course he’s got this big ol’ weights he’s lifting and Gates is using a bar for a bench press where there’s no weights at all on the bar!
Overall the impression Gates and Ballmer gave was that Gates is completely checked out, he sort of gazed off into the distance a lot with a little grin on his face while Ballmer emphatically made his points and was passionate about where they were going. Gates is definitely a back room guy now doing the geek stuff and fading fast out of the limelight.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon
Jeff Bezos spoke passionately about how devices need to learn how to behave and get out of our way – they need to be invisible to us to really work well. He used the example of a microwave oven he had that would been every 30 seconds until he opened the door – he said that was a “Self Important Device”. They’ve been using this concept in how to make Kindle a device that’s not self important. He said that books won’t disappear entirely, just as horses are still around. (Remember this crack for when I get to the Howard Stringer interview).
He said they need to out book a book – put an in stream dictionary, allow changes to font size (which was very well received he said), and give wireless delivery of books in less than 60 seconds. he talked about the smell of books and how much we love that. he said he looked into it, and the smell is mostly glue, also the ink and a little bit of mildew. We don’t intrinsically like that smell, it’s that we associated great experiences (even early reading with our parents) with that smell.
Walt asked him how he’ll avoid feature creep on Kindle – noting the experimental area of Kindle with the built in web browser, and how you can read blogs with it. Bezos had a great answer, he said it’s like digital cameras – you like having one on your cell phone, but you also carry a real digital camera. You can add the camera to a cell phone but you would never do that if it interfered with your ability to talk on the phone. Walt asked about video and he explained that electronic ink is the worst way to display video, it gives a fantastic reading experience for a book, but doesn’t have the refresh rate necessary for video. Walt said he thought the ability to wirelessly and EASILY buy a book online on Kindle is what he really likes about it.
Bezos then talked about their Elastic Compute Cloud where you can buy server usage and quickly scale up AND down as your needs changed. He used the example of a company called Animoto, which is a service I’ve reviewed before for making online video slideshows. He said they started with 25 EC2 servers, and a huge wave of popularity over a 3 day period they scaled up to using 5000 EC2 servers! Over time that huge wave slowed down and they were able to scale down. There is no way a company could plan ahead for such dramatic success – buying physical hardware of their own to the max they might grow is entirely impractical. There’s a fantastic article from Wired Magazine you can read if you are interested in reading more about Amazon’s approach on cloud computing at wired.com.
Walt asked Bezos if Amazon is experiencing any business problems with the economy like it is, and gas prices rising so quickly right now. Bezos explained that the least inefficient way to buy things is to push a 2000 pound vehicle to pick up a 5 pound package. Walt countered by saying that if you buy from Amazon you have a 4000 pound truck bringing you that 5 pound package. Bezos countered again by pointing out how efficient it is to use the truck because it’s already driving down your street and following a very efficient path to minimize the driving.
Sir Howard Stringer, CEO of Sony
Sir Howard Stringer spoke passionately about how difficult it has been to push profit as a priority in a japanese company. He talked about how his businesses choices aren’t wrong – that BluRay will last for a good ten years, that the quality will outweigh anything delivered oveer the internet. He showed off their 11 inch OLED screen which was truly amazing. They had it in a plexiglas box so they could rotate it sideways so we could see that it was only .3 inches thick. The picture was very bright, and Stringer said he uses one on his desk, and the brightness makes him watch it rather than the large display on the wall farther away.
Stringer was entertaining with his sarcastic and silly responses, but he diverted some questions that way. In particular Mossberg went on his continued rant regarding the craplets delivered on PCs. Walt said he got a PC recently that had four DVDs on it, but to watch them you had to pay $15 apiece. instead of saying what he was going to do to elminate the craplets, Stringer instead said, “I have to see if the joy of craplets is worth keeping, but I promise you a review of craplets.
Michael Dell, CEO of Dell
Michael Dell, CEO of Dell was just plain boring, and I think he was really playing funny with statistics. He gave a statistic that said their unit shipments were up some significant double digit number and that the entire rest of the market including Apple was in negative digits. This is really silly as by combining Apple in with everyone else, he implied that Apple’s shipments had gone DOWN, and we know that they’ve gone up in double digits. I’m not sure who’s lying on all this because Apple reports their stats the same way, so they’re just as bad I guess. Dell did say that the industry has changed from people wanting to know megahertz and gigahertz to saying “I want the red one” – fashion is playing a bigger role now. duh, you think?
Mossberg asked Dell if he’s noticed MS working more closely with them now that the consent decree doesn’t allow them to force Dell to do things. Dell responded that they’re seeing an unprecedented level of engagement with MS working on Windows 7. My read on that is that MS doesn’t want another driver fiasco like they had with Vista, but I blame the driver fiasco squarely on MS’s shoulders. I mean c’mon, they played the Boy Who Cried Wolf like 28 times on all the vendors! We’re shipping in june, no, we’re shipping in 2 years, no in one more year, now it’s really June this time, oops, no it’s august. Sheesh, who really believed them by the time they really DID ship???
Honda Bob’s 29 year anniversary
Let’s take a quick commercial break in the middle of my monolog on D6 to congratulate Honda Bob on his 29th anniversary in business on this very day, June 1st. You’ve heard me say that we’ve been the beneficiary of Honda Bob’s talents for more than 30 years, that’s because we found him before he officially went into business. We were lucky enough to take a chance on this young kid with an interesting business model – a car mechanic who comes to YOU. He charmed us with his confidence, his level of knowledge, and of course his bad jokes. If you get a chance, send Honda Bob a congratulations email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and while you’re at it, if you live in the LA or Orange County areas, have him come out and do some scheduled maintenance on your Honda or Acura car! You can also call him at (562)531-2321. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming! Mossberg also asked Dell about the craplets, and Dell happily explained that they have a craplet free option now! He also talked about their Green strategy – they’re coming out with a PC that will be 80% smaller than a regular desktop and use 71% less energy. Um, Mac Mini? I shouldn’t mock them though, they’re going with a lot of recyclable materials and this year they will be carbon neutral and that they’re headquarters is run entirely on renewable energy. If you want to read more about their strategy on Green, go to dell.com/earth
Jerry Yang & Susan Decker of Yahoo!
Jerry Yang & Susan Decker of Yahoo! took the stage next (Decker is the COO with Yang as the CEO). The obvious questions were all surrounding the MS attempted purchase of Yahoo! but Yang was pretty closed lipped about it. Mossberg also tried to get him to talk about the Google possibilities, but Yang couldn’t even say the word Google – seemed to be avoiding it, and Mossberg said, “you’re acting like you’re trying not to say Voldermort!” To which of course Yang said, “I can say it, Google.” but he was really quiet when he said Google, pretty funny actually.
Mossberg pushed on how they’re going to compete with Google, and Decker responded by explaining that they’re going to be more social at a scale at which no one else has done. They certainly have the opportunity to do that with all the different properties they have – if they could just string them together they could really have something poweful. Yang said the link between mobile and the desktop will be more fluid over time, and that they have to grow with people as they grow up on the web.
Yang said that they want to be the starting point for people to get everything – 4 areas of focus: homepage, search, mail and mobile. They want you to come back many times a day. It’s a place for all their high value positions, and it’s a change because they had diluted our focus, now making it more social too. I found it odd that they didn’t see their photo sharing as a pivotal part, and an obvious area where they’ve done the social part right. They went on and on about these 4 major focus areas, which got me thinking about Mobile, and I decided to give them a shot at wowing me on my iPhone since I hadn’t been to Yahoo! in a really long time and hadn’t been there on my iPhone at all. they inspired me.
It didn’t go well, so I went to the open mic and asked them to explain their mobile strategy since I tried going to yahoo on my iphone, and got the non-mobile version. Tried mobile.yahoo.com and it showed how we could get software for the iPhone and others to look good at yahoo, but it required a phone number! But that didn’t even matter, because it wouldn’t let me enter a phone number, or click on anything else! (loaded the screen 3 times). David Roth tried pda.yahoo.com and it had an app he could install (???) but when he went to the list of devices, there was no iPhone choice. Ok…so I went to pda.yahoo.com on the Blackberry, and it wanted me to download software, which I agreed to, it downloaded, but when it went to install it had a fatal connection error. Both Jerry & Susan said it shouldn’t be that hard and they’d like to talk to me, but a guy from Yahoo! Cornered me and explained that most iPhone users DON’T want the mobile version, they want the real Yahoo home page.
I imbedded the video of the interview Walt did with Yang and Decker in the shownotes, it was a 45 minute interview that they cut down to about 7 or 8 minutes, and they actually kept my question! I thought that was cool. When you look at the video, wait for the commercial to load and then fast forward to five minutes in and you’ll get to see me harrass them. it was fun because i could tell I struck a cord with Mossberg, and that’s pretty hard to do. If you tell too much of a story first you’ll get cut off at the knees with an “IS THERE A STORY HERE???” from Walt, and I didn’t want that. I did have to go on for a bit to illustrate how hard i tried to use their mobile service but I managed t keep it short enough to not unleash the wrath of Mossberg.
Guitar Hero World Tour
One of the fun things about D is how they break up the long interviews with product demos. This year they had the guys who invented Guitar Hero out on stage demoing Guitar Hero World Tour, which is sort of like Rock Band in that you’ll have four instruments to play instead of just the guitar. anyway Walt and Kara made a big deal about how they wanted to have a contest with it, but you can’t have a contest without a certified judge, right? so they bring out Paula Abdul on stage to do the judging! it was very fun, she was quite gracious and enjoyable to watch. But here’s the good part. She goes out into the audience to get 2 people to join into the contest. I distinctly remember saying to my friend David Roth that it seemed odd that the ONLY two people to volunteer happened to be in the front row, and that something seemed fishy. anyway, I was snapping away trying to get a good shot of Paula, and I finally got one I liked. I posted it on Facebook with some caption like “OMG – it’s Paula Abdul!!!” to which my daughter says, “isn’t that Tony Hawk playing the guitar?” Can you believe that? I’m SO OLD that I didn’t even notice that’s who she picked out of the audience!
Pics with famous people
While at the show I did get to hang out with some folks that I was excited to meet that were pretty well known. I threw some pictures in the show notes so you’d believe me, there was Martha Stewart, Stewart Alsop former columnist for Fortune (used to LOVE reading his stuff), blogger Sara Lacy (who I enjoy watching on Cranky Geeks) and Jason Callicanis who is the CEO of Mahalo, and interesting search engine.
I also got to hang out with director Barry Sonenfeld (he did Men in Black) – I put a pic in the shownotes of him that I took because of what he was wearing. he had on a big white cowboy hat, a blue blazer, a pink shirt and an orange and blue tie. When I pointed out his color choices he said, “doesn’t it just scream “pay attention to me?”” He was an interesting guy.
Mark Zuckerberg (CEO) & Sheryl Sandberg (COO) Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg (CEO) & Sheryl Sandberg (COO) Facebook took the stage at one point, and all I can say is that Mark Zuckerberg is cute as a bug’s ear. You just want to take him home and give him milk and cookies! they mentioned that he was 23 years old to which he replied, “no! I had a birthday, I’m 24 now!” He also has that little girl valley speak where he lilts up at the end of every sentence, “and then we developed the algorithms? and then we got funding?” Pretty funny. That said, he was articulate and intelligent.
He told a great story that he started by saying he thought it was really funny hearing Gates say he didn’t go to class because he did the same thing at Harvard. He was taking the Rome of Augustus, and he didn’t go to class the whole time, he was planning on doing the homework at the end, but that’s when I started Facebook so I ran out of time. the final assignment was that you were supposed to get images and explain them how they related to the subject. Instead of doing the research himself, he created a website study tool, with images and let people make comments on it, and within a half hour everyone had filled in all the info he needed! He passed the test. Other peoples’ scores were better than the prof had expected.
I asked Zuckerberg during the open mic whether they were working on any applications to draw in old farts like me (explaining first that I am more than double his age). he didn’t answer directly but he did actually imply the answer. he told how he had gone into an internet cafe in Istanbul, and he’d seen them using applications on Facebook that he’d never seen before, and they were all in Turkish. i think what he meant by his answer was that it’s up to the old farts to make their own applications just as the Turks made up theirs.
Melinda Gates & Dean Kamen
There were two interviews that were so compelling, so fascinating that I don’t think I can do them justice. Melinda Gates discussed the foundation work an dhow they approach the eradication of diseases as though it were a business. She is a fantastic speaker, so articulate, and I want you to hear it in her own words. I put a link in the shownotes to the two part videos that are online at allthingsd.com. Please go out there and check it out.
The second one is even more compelling – it was Dean Kamen, CEO of DEKA Research, better known as the inventor of the Segway. He’s a robotics genius and was asked by DARPA to invent a robotic arm for our veterans. I want you to hear this one in his words because he’s very emotional about what they were asked to do, how they approached the problem, the setbacks and how that made him feel – he actually chokes up a few times it’s such a big story to him. I put a link to that interview in the shownotes too – unfortunately it’s only 7 minutes of the half hour or so – the audience was RIVETED for the entire time, no one was chatting, playing with their phones or even blogging while he talked. I sure hope you go check than one out.
A few years ago I met Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association – the folks that run that little show called CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show – you know the one, it’s the one that’s getting too big for Las Vegas and they’re talking about moving it to Dubai? Well anyway, we’ve said hello a few times, but this year he sat down next to me during the show and chatted with me for a bit. I guess I’ve made enough of a pest of myself with all my questions at the mic that he’s noticed who I am. I was floored when he approached me at breakfast one day and asked me whether i would agree to be one of the judges for the hottest tech gadgets of CES this year! From what I understand there are 34 categories and you vote online, only reading about the gadgets (I was hoping they’d send them all to my house!) He said only 20 people are asked to be judges, but that HAS to be 20 per category, don’t you think? anyway of course I said yes! Pretty cool – he says you get to see all the gadgets ahead of time and that Sony and Samsung are always shoving it in each other’s face who won more!
Well believe it or not, I actually have MORE to talk about D6, but I’m going to leave it until next week. I have to relax on cloud nine now…While I relax up here go check out all my photos of D6 at the link in the shownotes.
Chit Chat Across the Pond
In this week’s episode of Chit Chat Across the Pond, we have a quick discussion of how Spaces has been fixed in the OSX updae 10.5.3 – Bart’s blog post about it
Then we take on Flickr – Allison isn’t sold on it but Bart loves it:
I have 2 login things – one is my login name, one is my name once I get inside – why oh why?
don’t get this whole “sets” thing – seems odd, expect to put things into an album, sets feel more like tags to me – meta data?
Have to invest $25 US to figure out what sets REALLY mean – only get 3 for free
but I paid the $25 in BLIND faith of Bart’s recommendation
not clear to me how to navigate
I do admit it’s easy to get sucked into looking at people’s photos
if you don’t have sets, and everything is in your photostream, how do you send someone a link to just one group of photos?
Flickr uploader is really good – but when i tried to upload through the web nothing happened
photostream is in time order – so my D photos are in the exact opposite order from what I want!
like the meta data model rather than the classic folders model. More powerful since the same pic can easily be in many sets. Tagging is much more powerful than hierarchical folders for searching.
excellent geo-tagging support – see not only your own pics on a map but everyone’s – great for planning a holiday
best use of AJAX I’ve seen yet – very subtle, very userful – the way AJAX SHOULD be
the social aspect is the real power of Flickr. Groups with their photo pools and discussions are very imersive, you really get sucked in.
like Al says you can wander around from pool to photo stream to set to pool for hours.
pro membership really worth the money. Don’t regret it for a moment
Not perfect though.
Would be nice to have more control over the presentation of your photo stream.
The forums are primitive – no way to subscribe to threads, no sticky topics
I keep forgetting to mention that the MacRoundtable is aliving and well – our new format with increased number of hosts is really working out well. i know it’s hard to believe, but even the shows where I’m not on are interesting! The Mac Roundtable comes out twice a month, and I tend to be on every other show. All of the hosts are great – fun and interesting people bringing different perspectives to the Mac community – well, different as long as they’re Mac lovers I guess! Check it out at macroundtable.com
Well I’m exhausted, hope you got enough show today! Get back to work on the Dumb Questions – I have a few for next week, but keep ’em coming! You know how to get them to me – email me at email@example.com, or if you want to do an audio comment/question/review – send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.