Mossberg bids farewell to WSJ, names top products from two decades of tech reviews

“This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here,” Walt Mossberg writes for The Wall Street Journal. “So I thought I’d talk about the dozen personal-technology products I reviewed that were most influential over the past two decades. Obviously, narrowing so many products in the most dynamic of modern industries down to 12 is a subjective exercise and others will disagree.”

“Though most were hits, a couple weren’t blockbusters, financially, and one was an outright flop. Instead, I used as my criteria two main things,” Mossberg writes. “First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers… Second, I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked.”

Mossberg writes, “Some readers will complain that Apple is overrepresented. My answer: Apple introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.”

MacDailyNews Take: We have few rules here at MacDailyNews, but one of them (besides “beer is good at any time of the day”) most certainly is:

Never apologize, preemptively or otherwise, to the clueless.

Whether there’s some WSJ editor who makes Walt add stuff like that or if it’s of his own volition, we hope that in his next incarnation Mossberg dispenses with such unnecessary pap.

Just write: “Apple products dominate my list because the company introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.” Period. Because it’s the truth.

Mossberg’s top products that changed the digital industry over the last 22 years:
(Apple products in bold; Apple derivatives in italics)

1. Newton MessagePad (1993)
2. Netscape Navigator (1994)
3. Windows 95 (1995)
4. The Palm Pilot (1997)

5. Google Search (1998)
6. The iPod (2001)
7. Facebook (2004)
8. Twitter (2006)
9. The iPhone (2007)
10. Android (2008)
11. The MacBook Air (2008)
12. The iPad (2010)

Read about each of the 12 products and why they made Walt’s list in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple actually is responsible for 8 out of 12 items on Walt’s list since both Windows 95 and Android are derivative, inferior knockoffs of Apple’s Mac OS and iOS (née iPhone OS), respectively, while Apple’s Newton gave birth to Palm.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Scott M.” for the heads up.]

Related article:
The Wall Street Journal and Walt Mossberg agree to mutually separate – September 19, 2013

34 Comments

  1. Looking forward to see what Walt does next. MDN is right, never apologize for the truth. I think Walt did this for the most part and thats probably why he is leaving WSJ. The WSJ probably wants what the rest of the rabble (that Walt leaves behind) dish out. Bonnie Cha, Kathrine Broehret, and Lauren Goode are the worst. Inna Fried and Paczkowski are OK.

  2. Win 95? That’s a bug fix of the original windows which was a total rip off from the original Mac (even the icons like re-cycle bin was a rip off).

    It’s weird that the original Mac isn’t on the list. The first mass marketed PC with GUI and mouse. (Apple did a huge amount of work from the tech it bought from Xerox to make it mass marketable PC including refining mouse tech)

    It full fills Mossy’s criteria:

    “First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers… changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, ”

    a heck a lot more than Win 95. Mac influenced Win , what did Win influence? nothing. Because Mac os was always one step ahead of it.

    The Mac changed computing history. without Apple people will be typing on green screen command line Ms Dos machines.

    1. Criteria for inclusion was that the product was introduced during his time with the WSJ (1991-2013). Original Mac was obviously before this period of time.
      His comment about Win95 reflects that it wasn’t the first GUI based OS, only that it was the most widely adopted.

    2. The Mac wasn’t introduced during Mossberg’s column.
      OS X, on the other hand, had a far greater impact on all of computing raising the bar on what a real computer can accomplish. Far more influential than Facebook or Twitter. And far more important than a Xeroxed phone OS.

      But I guess you have to give the illusion of impartiality by throwing some other non Apple things in there.

    3. The list covers only the last two decades or so he’s been reviewing , which means the original Mac would have been 8 or 9 years old by then.

      No doubt the original Mac would deserve a top spot on the list if the time window were expanded to three decades.

    4. I stand corrected people by the timeline which I screwed up.

      Still I stand by the fact the Win 95 is a derivative product. Original Mac OS was still around when Win 95 came out and Mossberg was writing, and as a new version of Mac OS came out every couple of years or so he must be covering it, shouldn’t he list Mac OS instead of Win 95?

      If you count ‘market share’ is why Win 95 was more important than Mac OS then why is Netscape listed as other browsers like I.E overtook it in millions of units? (Netscape SHOULD be listed as it was first popular web browser but so was Mac OS as the first popular GUI OS)

      seems like he needed to put Msft (being the largest tech company during much of his tenure) somewhere on the list.

      1. Windows 95 is really on the list because it did most of the things that Pink would have done — if Apple had ever completed it and shipped it.

        When it shipped, Windows 95 was more advanced than System 7. Period. Anyone saying otherwise is either delusional or lying.
        Was System 7’s interface better? Yes.
        Was Apple’s enforcement of the user interface guidelines a boon to users while the Windows 95 hodgepodge of user interaction methods was flat out confusing? Absolutely!.
        Was System 7 more stable? Yes.
        However, Windows 95 had things like protected memory and preemptive multitasking that System 7 did not. For the vast majority of the business world what Windows 95 had was much more important than what it did not have.

        If Apple had completed Pink and shipped it before Windows 95 shipped, the history of the Mac versus Windows would have been very, very different. (There was a rudimentary, functional version back in 1990! Apple just needed to complete it, test it and ship it. With proper leadership this could have happened before 1994!) Unfortunately, Apple’s senior management at the time decided they needed to make Pink all things to all people at all times. Thus it never got completed and never shipped. And, it led to the subsequent OS fiascoes of pre-announcing many variants of a Mac OS that never materialized then the purchase of NeXT.

        I do think Windows 95 should be on the list. However, I do lament that Apple had a chance to knock out Microsoft with Pink and frittered that chance away.

    5. Davewrite: Walt clearly said that this goes back to the beginning of his column 22 years ago. That was 1991. The original Mac came out in 1984. Hence why is not on this list, my view.
      Even though I may ‘buy’ that Windows 95 is there because it was the first somewhat ‘usable’ version of Windows that MS introduced, I really do not understand why Mac OS X is not in the list.

  3. The reason Mosberg didn’t include the original Mac is that, (as he said), this article only includes reviews written for the WSJ, in the 22 years he’d been writing for them.

    The original Mac come out in 1984, about 7 years prior to Mosberg’s first WSJ column.

  4. Notice that none of the items on the list includes British designed software that came with the Psion PDA (personal digital assistant). That morphed into Symbian that went into every Nokia ‘smartphone’ before Stephen Elop decided to abandon the Symbian platform for Windows Phone 8. The British are good at designing dead end tech. Witness another clueless Brit designing iOS 7 which makes it look as ugly as hell which is obviously consigned for oblivion.

    1. You might not like the look of iOS 7 but plenty of people do. I’m not sure that has anything to do with Sir Ive’s nationality. Do you love all software designed by Americans? A few British inventions you presumably detest include the Worldwide Web, programmable computer, light bulb, carbon fibre, telephone, television, ATM, jet engine…

  5. Interesting that both Walt and Pogue have left print media/news companies.

    I have not read the paper tech seriously since Pogue left and I expect the same is true here .

    You have to be big enough to not just rehash the publicity blurb if you want to get a following.

    Interseting to see what happens next

    1. MacDailyNews Take: Apple actually is responsible for 8 out of 12 items on Walt’s list since both Windows 95 and Android are derivative, inferior knockoffs of Apple’s Mac OS and iOS (née iPhone OS), respectively, while Apple’s Newton gave birth to Palm.

      (Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.)

  6. I’ve always liked reading the tech reviews from Walt, he stuck to the facts and we wrote reports it in a way people can understand. I wish him luck in his future endeavors.

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