How can you hate a conference headlined by Go Daddy and Playboy with the keynote panel moderated by a lady with the purple hair?! But it really wasn’t as early 90s ‘boys will be boys’ as all that. I recall back in the real, early 90s at the annual CED (Council for Entrepreneurial Development) Software Conference that most of the all-male attendees worried if the only way forward, meaning to make any money, was to obey the Microsoft juggernaut. Clearly not, because Google came along. And now there is concern of what Facebook really knows and do you have to love Apple to get cool technology?! Certainly not, which is why we get together to learn from and to measure one another.
I found this Conference to be interesting for many reasons that reflect the development and potential of our community, both technical and entrepreneurial. In addition to the reliable supporters from the area such as SAS and IBM, there were a range of marketing and advertising sorts; familiar service providers; smaller entities that grew up such as iContact and Bronto. The teams of those seeking to continue to shape the Internet as an advertising channel outnumbered those who seek to perpetuate the Internet as a disruptive force to the way that things are presently done. At the conference, the present class of disrupters were those who understand mobile devices and the new realm of of apps that run on them.
Bob Young, CEO of Lulu and founder of Red Hat, was as direct in his opinions as befits someone who only reports to himself. When asked where does one find the talent for this brave, mobile world, he related a tale of an unprofitable business investment that he made. Being a loyal Canadian from Hamilton, Ontario, he rescued their Tiger-Cats from bankruptcy. Rapidly he was able to compare the value of experience: ‘in a technology company, it (experience) doesn’t matter so much as what one learned ten years ago is nearly obsolete today. However, in the general management of a football team, accumulated wisdom (experience) is worth an awful lot.’ But his point was that hiring the smartest people is the most reliable way to capitalize on the capabilities of the latest technologies.
Overall, I much admired the make-up of the crowd. Everyone knows that there is something big happening amidst us; that these devices in our jacket pockets and belt-holsters do too much more than make phone calls; that people are able to connect to others and to the friends and places of others without much interference or sponsored help from the traditional advertising megaphones; that there is a call for reliability of information; and that somehow there is a shift of control from those who own the channels of information distribution, i.e. media of all sorts, to those who develop and share the content of these channels.
In the familiar model of advertising, the media outlet, television, for example, sells a product, the consumer, to its customer, the advertiser. Content, such as the television program, is negligible and serves only to segment the products (the viewers) within themselves. There is the Sports Shelf, the Kardashian Shelf and the Sponge Bob Shelf. I think that my Summit colleagues who want to ‘promote social’ as a way of delivering products to advertisers will and should learn that their best contributions will be by enhancing the quality of the content as the consumer, aka former products, can now easily connect with one another without nearly ever having to listen to the promotional pitches. Now the consumer becomes the customer and the content becomes the product. Such a shift in power or control or knowledge is enabled by these mobile devices and their allies, the mobile applications.
Next year’s Internet snapshot will be an interesting one now that the Android operating system is a fully accepted alternative to all things Apple. As well, the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, with Android as its operating systems, offers an alternative to Apple’s iPad. My guess is that 2011 will be the year where the tablet computer becomes the device of choice. A side-note: what will become of RIM and its Blackberry? Three months ago, this corporate sanctioned email device appeared to be the iPhone’s prime competitor given its penetration of the enterprise. It now appears that RIM must compete with Microsoft and Nokia for third place and survival. My conclusion is that the Android’s success comes at the expense of RIM more than Apple.
Who would have thought in the early 90s, not even Bob Parsons, that less than twenty years later that Microsoft would hardly be part of the mobile computing conversation.