The really interesting thing about "The Social Network" is that while much of the tale is invented, the story tells a larger truth about Silicon Valley's get-rich-quick culture and the kind of people—like Facebook's 26-year-old founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg—who thrive in this environment.
Google and Verizon shook up the tech world last week when they issued a set of proposals about net neutrality. Critics declared that Google, long a proponent of net neutrality, had sold out its principles, and that, as a result, the open Internet that we enjoy today would soon be a thing of the past.
People who write about technology love to huff and puff and hyperbolize. The fate of the entire world seems to hang on every move made by Microsoft, or Google, or Apple. Every new smart phone gets billed as a potential "iPhone killer," while every new product from Apple represents the dawn of a new era. It's ridiculous—and exhausting.
Things have been pretty wild around the headquarters of Flipboard lately. This tiny company (19 employees) launched its first iPad app in July, and so many people wanted to download it that within 20 minutes Flipboard's servers were maxed out. Engineers scurried around trying to fix the problem, but after 36 hours, the only thing Flipboard could do was put people on a waiting list.
To hear Dan Abrams tell it, the TV business is about to be radically disrupted by the Internet, just as the print media business has been. And he's dying to be a part of the disruption. "In five years, anyone who is not actively involved in the Web is not in media," says Abrams, a TV journalist best known as the chief legal analyst on NBC and MSNBC.
Anyone expecting that Amazon might roll out a new Kindle with a color screen and the ability to play music and movies—in other words, a device like Apple's iPad—will be sorely disappointed in the new version rolled out Wednesday. And that's too bad, because the new model is a pretty slick little device, despite the fact that it still has a black-and-white screen and is only good for reading books and newspapers.
Yes, it's true that the iPad has been a smash hit, selling 3.3 million units in just a few months. But Amazon claims its plucky little Kindle is doing pretty well, too. Amazon won't give out sales figures, but Forrester Research, a market-analysis firm, reckons Amazon will sell 3.5 million Kindles in the United States this year, bringing its total number in U.S. readers' hands to 6 million by the end of 2010.
Steve Jobs is not an engineer, but he likes to think of himself as a world-class design guru. He believes he is not creating products but art. This is partly why Apple puts so much emphasis on the way things look. But this time around, I think Jobs got seduced by what seemed to be a really cool and clever design, and his engineers couldn't talk him out of it.
The more you look at the problems involved in overhauling our health-care system, the more hopeless they seem. But that is exactly what made Peter Neupert, a Microsoft millionaire and dotcom entrepreneur, want to try. "It is completely overwhelming," he says.
Cloud computing is the hot new buzzword in tech these days. But who knew the killer app for this brave new world would be plain old e-mail? Yet that is exactly what's happening. "E-mail has become the easiest workload for customers to move to the cloud," says Chris Capossela, a senior vice president at Microsoft.
Microsoft has a problem—a big one. The problem is not just that its CEO, Steve Ballmer, has had a disastrous 10-year run. That's been obvious for a while now, as I first pointed out last October in a piece titled "The Lost Decade—Why Steve Ballmer is no Bill Gates." It even prompted me to predict, last fall, that Ballmer would get pushed out of Microsoft this year.
Not long ago, all Steve Jobs could talk about was Apple's signature line of computers, the Macintosh. Not anymore. Daniel Lyons drafts a "Dear John" letter to the Mac faithful.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the new iPhone 4, and it's a beauty—sleek, slim, with a forward-facing camera for doing video chats, a better screen, and longer battery life. So why is it playing catch-up to a Sprint phone that's running Google Android?
I'm wondering what excuses Microsoft will invent to explain away the fact that Apple has now surpassed Microsoft in terms of market value. The unofficial version from Microsoft, delivered over the past few years in off-the-record conversations, has basically boiled down to the notion that investors are fickle creatures who are so swept up in Apple's hype and hysteria that they fail to see how great Microsoft still is.
Facebook's current troubles began in April, when it rolled out new rules that push members to share more information about themselves. Facebook also said it would start sharing info with some partners like Yelp, Pandora, and Microsoft. Tech pundits howled. Some vowed to quit Facebook. Government officials in Europe, Canada, and the United States threatened to take action.
I was already fed up with my lousy AT&T service, and was seriously considering switching to the HTC Incredible, an Android-powered phone that runs on the Verizon network. But then, after seeing Google's new mobile-phone software, I've made up my mind. Goodbye, Apple. I'm ditching my iPhone. Seriously, I'm gone.
President Obama has been taking some heat in techie circles over comments he made at a commencement address over the weekend about iPods and iPads and other digital distractions. Because of these things, he said, "information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation." To his critics, it made him sound, well, like a Luddite, not the cool, tech-friendly, BlackBerry-carrying president they thought he was.
Despite our noisy fascination with iPhones and iPads, it turns out the United States is one of the least advanced places in the world when it comes to the way we use mobile devices.
Long before Apple even announced its new iPad, media companies were going nuts about the device, for two reasons. First, they believed they would be able to create apps that would be gorgeous and stunning and way better than anything they've been able to do on a Web browser.