Beware of geeks bearing gifts – First Engadget column is live

I’m pleased to announce that as of today, i’m writing a guest column for Engadget. First column, Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts is here. I’ve long admired Engadget’s industry coverage and it’s become a must read for me many times in the course of a day, thanks to Josh Topolsky for having me on board as a columnist.

So, what topics would you like to see me explore in the future?

Will There Be a Windows Media Player 12?

We first got a look at Windows Media Player 11 back in 06 and of course, it’s become the default player for Vista and still appears in the Win 7 betas but other than that, there’s not been a lot of news or momentum around WMP or the WMP eco-system. At a time when Apple is leveraging iTunes as a core platform for Windows/Mac content management and other services, WMP seems to be quietly withering on the vine (or the OS, as the case may be).

We’ve already heard about the next version of IE, what about the next version WMP? Or will the next version of WMP just be the Zune software?

What platforms lead themselves most to personalization?

While there wasn’t a whole lot of news out of Microsoft at CTIA, one thing they did discuss was the role of personalization in Windows Mobile going forward. They talked about the role of themes to personalize the device and also announced that among the designers creating content for these themes would be Isaac Mizrahi. You can see some of the designs below (the Mizrahi theme is the final one) and judge for yourself. I think Microsoft is on the right track here (although I personally cant say I love all the designs). The ability to personalize is a key component of devices going forward. We’ve seen it with ringtones, cases and the like but most devices don’t readily lend themselves to personalization through software.

There are two aspects of personalization in mobile devices. First, it’s the device itself. Some devices make a fashion statement all by themselves and their iconic designs. The RAZR comes to mind here as well as the iPhone. But there’s other aspects of personalization that go beyond the device itself and that’s why I think Microsoft is on to something here that might be more important than first glance. What do you think? Is personalization and customization going to be important to consumers? Bonus question, what platforms lead themselves to personalization more than others?  I have some ideas of my own that I’ll share shortly on that topic.



Are industry conferences a dying breed?

Michael Dowling raises the question of the value of conferences these days. Dave Winer raised this issue some time ago as well.. Personally, I go to fewer and fewer of these each year since time is so precious and there’s little to be gained as an attendee. Trade shows aren’t much better and at the moment, I skipped CES this year but did go to CTIA last week (where word was attendance was way down, as much as 30-40% according to some estimates)

While there was little news at CTIA last week and I did not hear great things about the conference sessions, the time was super valuable to me. Why? I was in non-stop meetings from the time I got off the plane until the time I left for the airport. I think I had a total of about an hour of downtime the entire time I was in Vegas. While the shows themselves aren’t overly useful, as a venue for face time, they continue to provide value. The question is, do we need these events to serve as the venue? I could think of a totally different type of event that would facilitate the same or better dialogue and do it in places that are more convenient toward travel and make better use of time. What do you think? Are conferences as we know them a dying breed?