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Pubcon X Keynote: Robert X. Cringley

Posted on Nov 16th, 2005
Written by Lee Odden
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    The first session at Pubcon 10 started out with a keynote presentation from Robert Cringley.

    Robert Cringley has been on the internet since 1977. He was a war correspondent in ’77 in Beiruit and had enough and went back to CA and started working for Steve Jobs. Apple offered him stock but he regretably, took cash. Cringley taught at Stanford University. Came back to Apple for work on Apple Lisa user interface.

    Claim to fame: He invented the trashcan icon, which he created as an experience he had when writing a book. He accidentally deleted 8000 lines of text – 96,000 words. So he was resolved to create the trashcan functionality and make delete a two step process. Shared other anecdotes regarding trashcan.

    Cringley went back to Stanford for a while and was brought back in 1984 to Apple to help develop Apple Link. Apple sold the code to the predecessor to AOL. In the end, hired/fired 3 times by Apple.

    Helped create Excite by finding clients and VC money. New project is NERDTV. Also writes a weekly column on PBS web site.

    Observes that the Internet space is occupied by several large players and that now is a time of consolidation and aggregation. A bit about the major players:

    AOL – Is it for sale? How are they evolving? Regardless, they are on the way out. Not going to affect search marketing.

    Microsoft – Recently offered Windows Live, Office Live. They are like placemarks. “We’re gonna mess with you in the space once we figure out how this works.” Microsoft makes its money on Windows and Office. Everything else loses money. Xbox is $4bn in the red. Reason to keep businesses that lose money is for leverage to maintain earnings per share by disengaging losing business units when market flattends out. Not the way to run a business, but it is a way to run a monoply. Not going to affect search marketing much. [Really? what about MSN?]

    Yahoo – Becoming more of a media property.

    Google – Why did Google sell $4bn of stock? Are they going to buy something? Sometimes companies do that because they can. Or as insurance. Cringley thinks they do have something to spend it on: dark fiber maybe. “I think they’re going to smoke it.”

    One of the largest competitive announcements by Google was uping Gmail from 1gb to 2gb. Gmail 3m suers. Yahoo mail 154m users. Significantly larger proportion increase in storage obligation for Yahoo. ie. he hints that Google upped GMail storage to disrupt Yahoo mail revenue opportunity. Yahoo responded flexing its muscles and upping to 1gb. That cost them. Microsoft/Hotmail waited. Only upped to 250mb. That was enough.

    How does this affect Webmasters? Search Marketers? “Google wants to become the Internet.” Google’s inherent advantage is hardware – distributed clustering. What’s next from Google is an extension of their clustering. Dark fiber seems likely. Speculates that Google will either buy or control many of the failing backbone Internet Service Providers and incorporate its clustering expertise into that space. That’s how Google will “become the internet”. Or grab as much of the Internet as they can.

    When it comes to a Google / Microsoft contest, Google wins by taking over internet infrastructure.

    Yahoo wins too and makes itself into something that does not direcly compete with Google and Yahoo.

    Google search appliance: It just works. You plug it in and Google takes care of the rest. “What would happen if we allowed Microsoft to do that?” Not a chance.

    If Google implements a dark fiber initiative, what will be the difference between the Internet and the Google Internet? The Google Internet just works. Timeframe? 2 years.

    NERDTV on All funded by Cringley. Shows are 1 hour and downloadable. Cost about $2k/week. No revenue model yet. Costs about .02 per download.

    That was it for the keynote. It was amusing hearing “back in the day” stories about early technology companies formed at Stanford. Also the insights about the major search engines overall was interesting. It would seem that someone from a search engine would be a more likely candidate to do a keynote for a conference on search and internet marketing, but it was entertaining nonetheless.