When Walt Mossberg speaks, people listen

Apple StoreWalter S. Mossberg’s ‘Personal Technology’ column, “which anchors the front of the Wall Street Journal’s Thursday Marketplace section, is particularly powerful when it comes to judging innovation intended for the consumer market. The opening sentence of his inaugural column, sixteen years ago, was “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault,” a sentence that Mossberg has since described as his ‘mission statement,'” Ken Auletta reports for The New Yorker. “Mossberg’s influence was felt almost at once.”

“Mossberg’s current contract—the second he has signed since 1997—covers the ‘Personal Technology’ column, on Thursday, and an accompanying video blog; ‘Mossberg’s Mailbox,’ also on Thursday, in which he answers readers’ questions; ‘Mossberg Solution,’ a Wednesday column that he edits but that is now written by Katherine Boehret (a reporter who also works as his assistant); appearances on CNBC to talk about his column; an annual conference, D: All Things Digital, which he and the Journal reporter Kara Swisher started in 2003; and a new D Web site, allthingsd.com, that he and Swisher launched in late April,” Auletta reports.

Auletta reports, “For the fifth annual D conference, at the end of May, Mossberg persuaded Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to appear together to answer questions. Jerry Yang, one of the co-founders of Yahoo!, guesses that Gates and Jobs have agreed to participate because in some ways Mossberg is a peer. ‘He has so much history with so many of us who’ve been around that you really can talk to him about what’s happened in the last ten years,’ Yang says. ‘You feel you’re talking to someone who knows what he’s talking about. And you really have to know what you’re talking about to be able to hang with him.'”

“He has usually favored Apple products… because he believes that they are designed for average users. When the iMac G5 desktop was introduced, in 2004, he said in his column, ‘I am writing these words on the most elegant desktop computer I’ve ever used, a computer that is not only uncommonly beautiful but fast and powerful, virus-free, and surprisingly affordable.’ He was just as enthusiastic, six years ago, about the iPod. In January, when he wrote about the ‘radical and gorgeous’ iPhone, he described its ‘brilliant new user interface; the handsomest email program and Web browser I’ve ever seen on a phone; a full-blown iPod music and video player built in; and even a cool new voicemail system.’ But he also took care to say that he had had ‘too brief an encounter’ with it ‘to write a proper review,’ and pointed out that it lacked a physical keyboard, ‘which may put off heavy email users,’ that it runs on ‘the relatively slow EDGE cellular data network,’ and that, at $499, it will be expensive,” Auletta reports.

Much, much more in the full article here.

17 Comments

  1. Just watch: As soon as the basic R&D costs have been recouped, the iPhone Deluxe will begin to appear in smaller, less expensive iterations . . . and then dump ALL of your Motorola and Nokia stock!

  2. A lot of wishful thinking has been expressed in relation to prices dropping in time with regards to the iphone.

    Reality will arrive in full force when people accept that prices will not drop in time as far as the iphone is concerned UNTIL and only until Apple inc. have a newer better product with which to replace it by.

    That has always been the Apple inc. model.

    You gets what you pays for!

  3. I’ll be using the iPhone’s data capabilities on wifi far more often than I’ll be using it on EDGE, so I’m not concerned about the slowness of EDGE. The only time I would really need to use the internet when I’m not near any wifi would be if I’m lost and need directions.

  4. I’m with Jooop.
    Of course it will be nice to have HSDPA for near-broadband speeds, but thats quite a hefty monthly bill for unlimited data access roaming. I would see my principal needs as just having my contacts and calendar available, perfectly synchronised, and easily accessible all in one neat package. Having mobile data access is an added bonus, but not required. Good for when you really need to find something on the web, but i find most of the time its just as quick to ask around the locals for directions or information.

  5. Walt’s must be on Apple’s secret payroll.

    When all else fails, blame a conspiracy. Unless it’s blatantly biased, like Consumer Reports…

    IMO Walt’s coverage of the tech industry is rather accurate. Also IMO it’s rather laughable that Gates is the one who does MS’s big interviews. Why don’t they show the freak who’s really running the show?

  6. No, but then again, neither is a Lamborghini. But I won’t be buying one of those, either.

    Really, how does the affordability of a six-figure car compare to that of a three-figure phone? “I can’t!” weighs more than “I don’t wanna”.

    Anyway those are famous last words, pal. You’ll have an iPhone within a year. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  7. Wasn’t MDN just complaining last week about Mossberg’s “meaningless” and “invalid criticisms” over the MacBook and MacBook Pro’s shortcomings? Wow guys, I know you like to model yourselves after Fox News, but really…I agree with others, this could be a great site if you just stopped proselytizing 24 hours a day…

  8. “Really, how does the affordability of a six-figure car compare to that of a three-figure phone? ‘I can’t!’ weighs more than ‘I don’t wanna’.”

    Yeah, I’ll admit it’s a bad example. But I didn’t want to diss the iPhone…

    “Anyway those are famous last words, pal. You’ll have an iPhone within a year.”

    Perhaps I shall if, after no one buys them because they’re too expensive, Apple lowers the price…

    Actually, I’m waiting on the iPhone for a few reasons beyond price:

    1. No third-party developer support — I’m a Mac developer and I want to play. I could have possibly justified it with the “It’s a learning experience. My killer iPhone app will make me $600…”
    2. EDGE sucks — I’ll wait until AT&T and Apple roll out faster Internet service. I don’t care about surfing the web using an iPhone in a coffee shop via WiFi. I have a laptop that’ll do that.
    3. Quality concerns — Nothing against Apple, but they sometimes expect people to treat their hardware with kid gloves. I don’t care about scratches on my iPhone that much, but I’m worried about how well the touchscreen will work after a few scratches. I’ll let someone else spend $500 to find out. If it’s good, I’ll consider it.

  9. “the iPod certainly hasnt dropped in price.”

    Except that a 10GB model used to cost $499 in 2001 dollars ($578 in 2007 dollars) and now costs $249 for 3 times the capacity.

    In 2001 the entry level iPod was $399, now it’s $79.

  10. iPhone is expensive if it does not live up to the vaporware hype.
    But I do not see what the big deal is about the iPhone price.
    Anybody remember the the introductory price for the Razor? The phone enabled Palms? The crackberries? Moto used to sell large screen pagers in this price range. How many ppl would shell out five beans for a pager?
    It is not about the price. The question is what Apple can deliver for the price.
    Oh yeah about a price drop….we used to say “in the industry” that your first integrated circuit costs you millions to produce, the last one costs fractions of a penny. A few months after the Razor came out I went to look at them. It was the first price drop to $399 w/contract. My dad just bought my mom one for just under $100 w/ contract.

    Apple does not generally “price drop” but I think we will find that eventually there will be different model iPhones including a low end line that will be the ‘Mac Mini’ of the line.

    Just my $0.02

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