As 2006 closes, the titans of our computer industry have, one way or another, made their visions known to mankind. Three in particular have made interesting, if not influential, comments on the future of the Internet and the world as we know it: Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and of course, Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
Google has captured more than the imagination of the business community — it is increasingly converting small businesses and savvy consumers into Internet-based services. In a world where desktop applications dominated by Microsoft Office don’t interoperate as well as they should — all too often you have to use Paste Special to paste something into another application’s window, just to avoid formatting problems — Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt makes the case for the future of Internet applications in The Economist: The World in 2007:
And we all know the largest company he’s referring to, that is striving for technical monopoly. But Schmidt really takes the cake for the best overall vision at the end of 2006.
Bill Gates is unfazed, noting only that Google is hiring excellent people and that there may be some areas where they overlap. Gates is out there promoting Vista and blithely explaining Office 97’s improvements — such as the following classic case of spin recorded in an interview with CNET News.com (“Gates: Ushering in Zune, Spiffing up Office” by Ina Fried):
One wonders how long you’d have to sit there to find the feature you’re looking for. Gates acknowledges this dilemma:
Thank goodness Bill has something better to do with his time. He also acknowledged that he’s not much of a PowerPoint user and doesn’t do animation. He really has gone soft — his vision of a wireless connection for entertainment everywhere is interesting but far from reality, and is beginning to sound more like spin control for the failed Zune roll-out:
When pressed for specifics about how this wireless connection for Zunes will be any better than just beaming music from one Zune to another, Gates was optimistically spinning the spin:
Cool. So Microsoft hires good people, too. Let’s hope they figure out what to do.
Meanwhile, Steve Jobs is still keeping the industry interesting. Apple brought out feature-length movies for the iPod and iTunes back in Sept. At that time (see “Apple forges path to digital living room” by Tom Krazit and Ina Fried of CNET News.com). Jobs pointed out that a new product, to be introduced in the first quarter of 2007, that lets consumers stream their movies or music to televisions wirelessly. “We think it completes the picture here,” he said. Characteristic of the Apple CEO and the company, Jobs delivered his vision one month ahead of his competitors (see “Good for the Soul” by Newsweek’s Steve Levy):
Steve also has the last word on Zune:
I couldn’t agree more. Microsoft wants to take on Apple with the Zune? Good luck with that.