tv Communicators with Walt Mossberg Part 1 CSPAN June 10, 2017 6:30pm-7:02pm EDT
retiring? you >> i've been doing the tech commentary and the tech reviews and columns for about 26 years. i will this year have been doing it just seems to me i have other things i want to do and try and that's why i am retiring. >> will they involve tech? >> i will never not be interested in tech. it's certainly possible it will pop up occasionally and have something to say in rent or on a podcast or on a video or something.
the folks at fox media where i work now were threatening to try and call me out of retirement from time to time and i will probably do it. i want to do some things that maybe are not about tech, without giving up interest in tech, but exploring other things. >> 26 years ago, how did you get into this position? >> i had already been a reporter at the wall street journal for 20 years. years ilast 10 of those had been a computer hobbyist. some of the old, primitive computers that were around that time, learning how to program, learning how to solder inside of them. you had to do those kinds of things in those days. i had no computer science record in those days, i was just hope
on it. although computers had been around then, there were not many in the hands of average people. not none, but not many. get anyaster them, to usefulness out of them, took way too much time and effort and you had to kind of become techie. inecided there was a column championing average people who never wanted to the average techies and challenging the companies, the industry, to serve those people. so i proposed that to the wall street journal and they bought it. that's why i made the transition. >> your first column in 1991 was about personal computers and how hard they work to use. >> yet. >> has that changed over the
years? >> yeah, it has gotten better. one reason is because the industry got the memo. it wasn't just me. other people wrote similar kinds of columns. they worked to make it easier and then i think consumers have gotten more sophisticated. the real personal computer that people use most today, as you of asis not what we think a pc or mac, it is your phone. and that -- you can we have both seen this in our lives -- you can hand it to a child and it is not hard for them to figure out the phone. but if you ask a child to type in the demands of .dos, they could not do that. so the gap has narrowed tremendously. with new technologies coming all of the time, i believe we are
going to see, in the next five or 10 years, a burst of new stuff. virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence. and i think all kinds of new ways of driving cars, we have a little taste of it. we will see a lot more of it, all kinds of things going on in your home. there is a gap that will continue to always have to be closed between engineers and what they think is easy, and real people, and what really is easy for them. peopleuld just encourage in my business to keep writing that stuff, being skeptical, keep educating the consumers and pushing the industry. some ofhe talk about the future and what you think about the future in a little while.
aroundd several people the company here at c-span and some other reporters if they had questions for you since we knew you were coming over. >> i forgot that you were doing that, that's great. that's great that you do that. >> this is one from our director, brett castle. single tech invention that has changed our lives up to this point? >> you mean, is he skeptical about any of these? >> know i'm asking you. oh, i guess i would say the personal computer as we knew it, whether we are talking about windows type computer or mac. the personal computer, which come up by the way, only really hit the mass market in 1977. compared to the automobile and airplane and the oil industry and the railroad and all of
these fundamental things in our lives, this is very young. we recently wrote a column where i pointed out that the personal computer is younger than disneyland, younger than that has changed the world. it has changed the world. it has changed every aspect of business, every aspect of arsenal like, every aspect of education, religion, just anything you can think of. andi think it is morphed kind of spread and i think that the smartphone you have in your fact the personal computer as i said a few minutes ago. it is much more powerful than much more regional computers. it has taken different forms. i can also answer the question and say the iphone has been a
huge thing that has changed everybody's life. the internet is a huge thing that changed everybody's life. i would be right on both those points. but neither the iphone or the internet or the web could have existed without the personal computer. because the iphone is derived from the mac operating system, it operates differently as we all know, has a different user interface. system ios operating derives from the mac operating system which derives from a ys.tem called un unyx. these things were all spun off -- the web is one of the few parts of the story that were not invented in the united states. web was invented in europe. it was invented on a computer
called a computer. n-e-x-t. it was a failed computer company that never gained traction, which was created and run by steve jobs after he was thrown out of apple. he made these very expensive, very powerful computers called next computers, black cubes, sold for about 10 grand apiece and that's really why it didn't succeed. it was way overpriced. but in switzerland, at this laboratory there, a british engineer researcher scientist had one of these and that's what he built the web on, the very first website, the very first idea for the web. from the latemes 70's, early 80's personal computers. mossberg, germany are
too was here taking a picture of you earlier for the media relations department. before casually asked you set down, with the world be different if steve jobs was still alive? >> if steve jobs were alive and healthy, yes. i think he is one of those guys -- look, let me back up -- there are loads of really smart people in many businesses, certainly in tech. loads of smart people. i think steve jobs is one of those rare people that comes along, who gets in the history , tos because he was truly use an overused word, but perfectly appropriate for him, he was a visionary. , by the early
2000's, a very good business executive, which he wasn't at the beginning. he was always a visionary, but he wasn't a good business executive. he learned how to be a good business executive, he was a tremendous marketer. he had a good to market, he had the products that were solid, but he knew how to market them. you can be a great marketer and have crappy products and that's no good, you can have great products and not know how to market them, we have seen both those cases. he had it all. he had a sense of design, he could understand the engineers. pretty much every month steve jobs lived as a healthy guy, the world changed in some way. either at apple, primarily at apple, but also people forget he ran pixar. he owned it and ran it.
he didn't create the movies, but he ran the company. he approved the movies. i asked him how he ran apple and pixar at the same time and he said, i do pixar on fridays. this was when pixar was the most successful studio in hollywood, having giant hit after giant hit after giant hit and winning oscars for all these things. people forget that he revolutionized retail. i mean, apple is the most successful retailer of any kind in america. when judged by the dollar volume of sales per square foot or square meter, or however measured in the retail industry, of the stores. and it wasn't a retailer at all. he had this idea of doing that and it kind of goes on. so yes, the world would be changing. if he wasn't healthy, if you was like he was toward the end, very
feeble and ill, it's amazing how much he did in the years he was ill, but towards the very end, when he was very ill, he just had, at some point, it was really six weeks before he died, he gave up being ceo of apple and he just had to fight for his life. if he was alive and well, yes. >> how well did you get to know him? do know bill gates, jeff bezos? >> i know all those guys. -- -- jobs and know -- a lot of people that i had just as much time , and i don't say that to fighter myself. he just was very generous with me. he would see me in his, and i 'y that to fighter myself.
office, in his home, took me to dinner at a suburban shopping strip indian restaurant. he was the richest man in the world and he pulled up on the backside of the strip shopping center, went into the indian restaurant and spent three hours. and he, like steve jobs, he appeared at these conferences that i used with my partner, karen swisher, many times. including famously they did one together on one stage. i spend a lot of time learning, arguing, because that is one way to learn is to argue if you are a journalist, with both of those people. i have known jeff bezos since he started, a little before he icm -- i have and spent less time with him over the years than those two.
-- it soundsis not sort of ridiculously egotistical, but i mean when you are the chief technology columnist for the wall street journal for all those years and then you build up your own brand , even after you leave the wall street journal, these kinds of people will see you. it's not because they like you, it's not because they think you are great, is because they think you are smart. because that's the way the world works. and if youy for me want to go on and talk about , you know,berg or larry ellison, or any of these big tech figures, yes, i know most of them. >> one of our ceos has this question for you. what does it feel like to be an influence? >> well, susan is an influence, so she knows.
what is it feel like? it depends on the day. youour column is good and feel like you hit the marks that you wanted to hit and said the or if you wanted to say your podcast is good or whatever. then it feels good. because it feels like you use whatever influence you have, which is usually overstated, by the way, but you used whatever know,nce you had to, you give credit where credit is due on a product or to tell more people off something that is not a good product or if it's a commentary, to make a point that you need -- you think needs making. and youa bad day a good job, such
then you don't feel so good as in influence. i think the really important thing to do, and i am a good jo, then you don't feel so good as in certainly not the only influence or in technology, i am pre-sure that pre-sure that everyone else -- i am pretty sure that everyone else, whether it analyst or journalist, anyone who has influence this way, you're absolutely must not let it go to your head. it is not about you. it really isn't about you. mindave to have a goal in and my goal has always been to ,hampion this average consumer smart about whatever it is she in her personal life or business, maybe she is a travel agent, maybe she's a teacher, maybe she's an executive at a big company, it doesn't matter. she wants this smartphone, this
watch, this digital camera, this pc, this whatever it is, she wants it to work and she wants it to actually help her do her best work. and she doesn't care what chip is in it and she doesn't care how big the battery is as long as the battery gets her through the day. but it's irrelevant. if i say to her, it's a really big battery, she would be quite correct to say, i really don't care. i need the battery to get me through the day. -- that'ss been my the way i frame what i have done. >> our other ceo, rob kennedy, has two questions come up just to follow up that are related. what a gadget that you thought was a dud that turned out to be a hit and vice versa, what is against you are sure to be a hit? >> yeah, it's really interesting.
thought -- i thought that, was aalm prix, which phone made by the palm. i thought it was a great design. it's very hard, even at that point, it would have been every hard to break into the duopoly that has now been really cemented by apple and google. but i think there was still somewhat of an opportunity at that point i can't remember the year, it was seven or eight years ago, nine years ago, seven or eight. and, um, they developed their
own fresh operating system and develop some pretty clever series of several phones and then they just didn't execute right, they couldn't raise the money. i distinctly member their marketing was horrifically bad and so it failed. --that's a product i thought i give it very strong reviews, it just didn't go anywhere. --terms of a product i liked like and itdn't like became popular, it's a little bit like a movie reviewer. a movie reviewer will say this is a really bad movie and yet it will get a big ox office. i think the good movie reviewer will say to himself or herself, it's not my job to worry about the box office. it's my job to evaluate this movie and tell you whether i think you ought to go see it. you can ignore me and people do,
they ignored me certainly every but it's not your job. they ignored me certainly. but it's not my job. i said negative things. i can give you an example. to severalreviews versions of windows over the years and they still sold hundreds of billions of copies. solace compared to other versions of windows, he did not do very well. windows vista is a good example. generally it's regarded as a big still soldt it hundreds of millions of copies and microsoft made a lot of copies -- a lot of money off of it. they wentoping bankrupt, but if people followed my advice, nobody would have bought.
but they did. that,t to follow-up on another question from susan swine, what kind of gadgets do you use at home? >> i'm the wrong person to ask because i have to use a wide variety of things. so i have both an iphone and in android phone. the android phone is a google pixel, so it's the first phone made -- >> which you liked quite a bit. >> i liked it quite a bit. i like the iphone a little better. they are pretty close. i do most of my work on a acbook air, which is now little long in the tooth at apple, but i think is still probably the best laptop that was ever made. windowsso have several laptops and a couple of chrome books that i work on. so i keep familiar with everything.
i have an ipad, i am a big ipad fan, i'm a big proponent of ipads. tablets in general, but really there aren't any good tablets in my opinion. there is no tablet that comes close to the ipad, so i use the ipad for not just watching movies or reading books or i geting, but actually work done on an ipad. so i use that a lot. >> have we hit a wall when it comes to battery life? give me a minute and i will explain to you why it's different. life partly depends on how efficiently the hardware and ortware made by samsung lg wherever, howe or
efficiently did they do their hardware and software. for instance, i think a lot of people don't know that if you have an iphone or android phone, that phone is turning off various different functions in nanoseconds. if it notices you haven't used something, some aspect of the way the phone works with the hardware or software, it will turn it off to save battery and it will turn it on again when you go use it. you don't even notice it. it happens fast. is the much bigger element the chemical and its physical properties of the battery. everything else in tech and fromal products benefits morse law, which says you can put more processing power into chips.
everyn almost double it 18 months or two years or whatever. batteries don't benefit from that. efficient for the space they occupy and the density that they have. basis -- on aower much slower basis, they get 3-5% better every year. to my knowledge, there has been since therough lithium ion battery which is, by the way, subject to catching fire and exploding if it's not handled right. we saw that with samsung's note seven this past year. efficienthe most chemical and physical combination for the amount of space it takes up, in terms of how much power it generates and how slowly it degrades its
charge that we have now. , it'sas used in teslas was used in other electric cars. nobody has come up with an all-new battery and i did a column on this a while back where i talked to some battery experts because i am not one and they said, they didn't see anything on the horizon for a new chemical combination. different been batteries in your regular car, let batteries. there is such a thing as a zinc that are in. there used to nickel, cadmium batteries. nickel, metal, hydride, i am not the chemist, i don't understand this stuff. i just know we got to lithium ion and there is still's tough we are playing around with that. for that to get better, somebody has two invented an all-new idea for how to do a battery.
the only investment i have ever does,is that if somebody and it's safe, not blowing up, and it's doing a magnitude better, i would sell all your other stocks and by that. that brings to the point your code of ethics statement. you say that you don't own a single share of stock in any of the companies that cover or any of the shares of technology mutual funds and you don't accept money, free products, or anything else of value for the company's whose products you cover. >> i don't, that's why i wrote that. >> why was it important for us to know that? ok, so long before the current -- rest is the enemy, the people thing from trump and the whole thing that is going on right now, there has been a slow
erosion of trust in the press. and even though i don't cover politics, i used to at one time, but i don't now, haven't for a long time, i still think it's to havet for people some transparency about how you operate. i think we have to adhere to a very strict code of ethics. if you want to get rich on the stocks of whatever companies you happen to be covering, i personally think you should not be a journalist. you should be something else, where it is not unethical to do that. to be a journalist, covering not just tech but whatever, you shouldn't have financial entitlements with it. and you shouldn't be accepting favors. many pricese rules, had these rules, many other places by the way have no such rules.
why not be transparent and tell the readers what our rules were? so when karen swisher, who is another great journalist from the wall street journal, like me, she and i became business partners and we started a business called all things is inside the company that owned the wall street journal. and we started a website in the year 2007 called all things d.com. we decided that every single writer and editor would produce an ethics statement. including us. when we hire people, we make them sell any stock they had in these companies and make them trips, freefree
,roducts, discounted products and right next to the byline, we had a link to an ethics damages like that and we did it again when we started our own company and had our code. if you print it out, it's still there. andhat mossberg is retiring as editor for recode. our conversation will continue next week on the communicators.
cohosting the hour-long debate. moderator: hello and welcome to the georgia sixth congressional district debate on pba 30 and 90.1 wabe atlanta. i'm dennis o'hare, the host of "morning edition" on wabe. early voting is already under way in the sixth district, election day is june 20. the district covers parts of cobb, fulton, and dekalb counties.