Good luck to all True/Slant readers and contributors. I will miss writing Log In.
As you may have noticed, I have not been posting much lately. I am writing a book. I probably won’t return to writing for True/Slant until the end of summer.
In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times Pico Iyer wrote about “The Tyranny of the Moment” and in The New York Times Magazine Walter Kirn penned a piece, “A Facebook Christmas Love Story.” Both articles took slightly different views of technology and are well worth reading.
They reminded me of how the Internet has changed the way we live and think. Of course, we are reminded of the Information Age constantly in the media. The print-centric media constantly fingers its collective worry beads about the Internet. Social networking sites like Twitter and the easy access of news is a media obsession–the job of a journalist has been de-valued by society while we applaud the “democratization” of our news. Iyer talks about perusing the Internet and that the result is that he is “wildly stimulated, excitingly up-to-the-moment, alive with ideas — and with no time or space to hear [himself] think.” It is difficult to argue that we are really better informed, which was pointed out by Frank Rich in the Sunday Times. He wrote a wickedly right-on commentary about Tiger Woods and our flawed decade. Despite the adversity the Internet has brought to my profession, I have always had the attitude that the more information the better. But our track record since the birth of the Web points to a society that is easily suckered (Iraq, the housing bubble, Enron, “intelligent design”…and now Tiger Woods) while wallowing in quote-unquote information. We are connected yet untethered when it comes to reality. Just because people can express their opinions does not mean their thoughts have much value, and yet our pride in knowledge equality has taken precedent over everything. It’s not the Internet’s fault, it is the way we obsess over real-time data. It is the misguided way we are using our time. Something is missing.
I am back from Las Vegas where I was covering the megafight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. (My article here.) When I cover events as a reporter, I am fascinated by the conversations going on underneath the event. For example, a lot of the reporters covering the fight were not only scoring it and taking notes for a story, they were also using Twitter to describe what they were seeing and to throw out bon mots. I was at a medical technology conference a month ago and it was the same thing. I know that many of you have experienced the same phenomenon. And when we don’t attend a conference, we follow it through tweets; there is often more interesting debates happening on Twitter, than at the actual event. Thus, social media is profoundly shaping opinion. This is a relatively new phenomenon and it presents all sorts of interesting issues, including a cottage industry in aggregating opinions and reacting to them. Dan Woods has a good article in Forbes about the aggregation of social media that is worth checking out. Companies, like Radian6, are helping companies monitor this information and essentially get intelligence on what is being said. So, for example, if a politician is talking and getting negative feedback, he can react immediately and change course to better shape his on-and off-line reputation. Is this ability to react in real-time and shape public opinion defeat the purpose of the social media free-for-all?
Windows 7 has launched. It is an important product for the future of technology, and for Microsoft’s place in it. Despite one of the most laughable marketing efforts in recent memory (click here for Microsoft’s unintentionally hilarious Hosting A Windows 7 Party video), it is a worthy competitor to Apple’s newest operating system Snow Leopard, and it will be entertaining to watch the two companies go at it again in a more even fight. Apple has had an easy ride of it for a couple years now. Microsoft’s launch of its Vista operating systems in 2007 was FUBAR. Despite Microsoft’s overall success, a terrible operating system doesn’t bode well for a company that is in the…operating system business. The troubles with Vista helped double Apple’s share of the U.S. computer market to 9.4 percent, and an advertising phenomenon in the clever Mac vs. PC ads. More importantly in the long run, the Vista stumble opened the door to cloud computing–shared computing services accessible over the Internet. Of course an operating system loaded on a computer is not yet an anachronism, but Microsoft’s buggy software has created a cottage industry in the cloud computing concept. Why have a Microsoft operating system, which seems to need a constant, and annoying, stream of security patches, when all of that can be solved at a data center? Google and Amazon, two brands known for reliability, are trying to exploit Microsoft’s vulnerability. The boys and girls in Redmond aren’t taking the threat lightly. “It took us 10 years to establish our enterprise capability and this company, Google, hasn’t really begun to focus,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the New York Times in March. “We understand what the enterprise needs: security, compliance, archiving.”
Cloud computing is turning into a serious market in the tech sector, according to Gartner, which released a future of information technology spending report on Monday. Because business customers assume less risk in the cloud model, more and more business consumers will want to adopt cloud computing.
Meanwhile, Google and its brethren have developed brand loyalty based on its enterprise capability and reliability. Vista has put Microsoft in a defensive position. Can Windows 7 earn back customers trust and as a result make Microsoft the de facto leader in cloud computing? Or will it open the door to Google, Amazon, Apple, and others? The success (or failure) of Windows 7 will help determine the next winner in the personal computing business.