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Random thoughts from the Web 2.0 Summit

There are so many people blogging this event that doing reportorial coverage seems like a complete waste of my time and yours so I'll spare you another attempt to explain "what it all means" and in stead will share some observations I've been jotting down over the two days of the event.
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Written by Marc Orchant on

There are so many people blogging this event that doing reportorial coverage seems like a complete waste of my time and yours so I'll spare you another attempt to explain "what it all means" and instead will share some observations I've been jotting down over the two days of the event. To get in-depth coverage of the events at Web 2.0. look no further than ZDNet's Between the Lines. Dan Farber is doing an amazing job covering the conference.

Don Tapscott, author of Growing Up Digital, is a great speaker. This is the third time I've had the good fortune to watch him present and I was reminded how much of a pleasure it is to watch someone who is so well-practiced and comfortable with his material that he has the ability to make each person in the room feel like he was talking to them individually. The true sign of a really good presenter? When his talk was over, half the room stood on line to pick up copies of a report he brought along supporting his discussion about the 12-29 year old demographic - The Net Generation. Since I have two members of this community in my home, I found his observations spot on and a great reality check for me as both a business person and a parent. Dan Farber posted his thoughts about the presentation and, in a later post, caught up with Tapscott for a video chat about his new book Wikinomics which looks like a must-read.

Having now seen (endured?) two attempts to replicate the DEMO event's formula for rapid-fire serial presentations by emerging companies at this event and the Office 2.0 Conference here about a month ago, I'm reminded how great that event is and how much coordination, coaching, and behind the scenes work it takes to make this format really work. The Launch segment was rough - a couple of the companies really struggled with connectivity and some of them were definitely in the "cool feature but I'm not sure that's an app/service" category. The two standouts, I thought, were OmniDrive and Stikkit. OmniDrive is a compelling entry into the online storage game. Stikkit is a web-based Post-It note service with some very nice automatic parsing of content to recognize events, contacts, and to do items.

I was disappointed in the small business panel discussion moderated by Tony Perkins of Always On with representatives from Google, Microsoft, and Zoho. The topic was the "revolution" of the SMB market but very little that could be called revolutionary was discussed. I was waiting for Tony to get the participants mix it up and, despite his best efforts, they chose to play it safe. Given the audience they were talking to, listening to everyone pretend that they're all good friends, friendly competitors, and that there's room in all of the markets they compete in for everyone to prosper was more than a tough act to swallow. The only participant who really let it fly was the CEO of Etelos who sponsored the session. And some good questions were asked by the audience but were answered mostly with agreement that the question was a good one and hard to answer. Sorry - I was hoping for more.

The discussions Tim O'Reilly had with Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Bruce Chizen of Adobe were quite good. I especially appreciated Bezos' deft handling of some of O'Reilly's statements/questions. A great example of this was, when asked what a retailer was doing in the web services business, Bezos explained in a very understated way that Amazon has been in the web services business for 11 years and has learned a few things along the way. Chizen was engaging in describing how Adobe, feeling they were at the periphery of what was going on and in danger of being marginalized by the continuing migration to the web, have been making a series of acquisitions (Macromedia) and releases (Flex and Apollo) to restore their relevance in a post-paper publishing world. Hard to bet against one of the only companies to repeatedly rebuff the Microsoft juggernaut.

Ray Ozzie, being interviewed by John Battelle (Tim O'Reilly has laryngitis) mentions for the first time during the conference the fact that Microsoft has "finished" Office 2007 and Vista. He talked about the fit and finish, the number of drivers that will ship (greater than what shipped with XP) and the launch dates. The more interesting portion of the conversation related to Ozzie's disruption memo (which he claims leaked but was not leaked).  Talking about collaboration, he made the statement that sometimes geographic constraints - splitting people apart - imposes a new way of approaching the problems being discussed and may actually produce better results. Battelle asks if Ozzie's memo is the same kind of sea change document as Bill Gate's Internet memo 11 years ago. Dave Madison, a co-worker at Foldera who was at Microsoft for 14 years, leaned over and said that you need to keep in mind that 11 years ago, the company was not under the scrutiny of the DOJ. The statement Ozzie made that everything we do in Office would be increasingly mobilized in the future and that the current line separating cell phones and smartphones would vanish got my fellow Folderan and MobileCrunch author Oliver Starr really excited.

I was sorry to have missed the AOL-sponsored show by Lou Reed (business meetings) but was really glad to heave had a chance to meet Jory Des Jardins, a fellow contributor to the More Space project and co-founder of BlogHer who led a great session on community the first day of the event.

I'll be in and out of the sessions today due to a business meeting down in Palo Alto in the middle of the day. I'm having dinner tonight with the ClearContext team before I head back to New Mexico tomorrow. Normal posting should resume next week as I wrap the book project writing phase up and get back to my "normal" schedule, whatever that is. 

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