Tony Perkins is hitting his stride. I wasn't around for most of the bubble, woodshedding as I was in Charleston and commuting to Palo Alto for the XML run-up. Now the traffic is back, the VCs are swarming here at the AlwaysOn conference on the Stanford campus, and Tony Perkins is working his magic.
Forgiving the unforgivable for the moment, Tony's political leanings put him to the right of John Roberts. But somehow his actions speak louder than words. His live Webcast (free) and realtime chat (out of control) compete precariously with the content on stage. When Michael Medved "balanced" Jerry Brown and Sandy Berger, the chaterati were downright rude; when Mark Cuban extended his anti-podcasting rant, the grumbling turned Animal House.
But marry a sparkling Skype video feed from Tim Draper and Niklas Zennstrom of Skype live from Estonia with Marketwatch's Bambi Francisco and Perkins cherry-picking questions from the audience and chat feed, and suddenly the "room" jelled into the very virtual network OS we've all been talking about. And Mike Homer surgically removed Cuban's rationalizations for keeping things as is long enough for him to milk money out of the transformation from closed to open digital markets.
Perkins presides over this mysterious mulch of money and hunger with a casual, off-the-cuff charm. And slowly but surely, you get the idea that even when Tony is nowhere to be seen, his hand is firmly on the tiller. After a Jonathan Schwartz mash-up of his Top Ten Blog posts during his keynote, a panel led by Ray Lane seemed mired in a Spikesource commercial until Jonathan suddenly woke up out of his regulatory slumber and jousted with Kim Polese over whether users care if it's open-source, or just because it's free.
The net: quality and value are what matters, and Tony Perkins is delivering hunks of both.