by Jean-Louis Gassée
The eighth installment of the Wall Street Journal’s annual D: All Things Digital conference was held last week outside Los Angeles, your author in attendance. You’ll find full coverage of the proceedings here, and the speakers list here; it was an impressive roster, du beau linge, as we say in France.
Staged as a series of interviews conducted by Wall Street Journal high-tech guru Walt Mossberg and conference co-producer Kara Swisher, D8 brings us “straight-up conversations with the most influential figures in media and technology.”
On the D8 site, the one-hour fireside chats are mercifully chopped into digestible ten-minute segments. The D8 audience is limited to 500 people, a cross-section of high-tech execs and entrepreneurs, VCs, media investment bankers and attorneys, a few Hollywood types genuinely involved in bleeding-edge tech, some pained-but-valiant old-media reporters, and a handful of bloggers who are able to pay the stiff conference fee ($5K). Discouragingly, there were very few Europeans—discouraging when so much of our future is fought and decided within a five-mile radius that encompasses Palo Alto, Cupertino, and Mountain View, where HP, Apple, Google, and Facebook are. Below are my notes from the show about three fixated leaders: The two Steves (Jobs and Ballmer) and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.
Steve Jobs opened the conference with the only interview of the night. True to form, he tells us Apple will continue to design and create devices that provide the best user experience. He doesn’t care what the pundits say, he measures the win/lose proposition one customer at a time. That’s why he’ll spare no effort, avoid no fight in preventing anything—carriers, enterprise sales, Adobe—from adulterating the relationship between Apple and its customers.
The numbers support him—the iPad sold 2 million units in its first 60 days on the market—and the customer satisfaction surveys (JD Powers and Consumer Reports) validate his strategy. With the iPhone and iPad, Jobs has envisioned a new genre of very personal computing (see the March and May 2010 Monday Notes on this topic).
With this coming week’s Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, a new iPhone, and more goodies around the corner, Apple’s future looks secure… unless you start worrying about the side-effects of the unrelenting focus on the device and the user experience. More