I had the privilege to be at the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco when Mark Zuckerberg had is first public interview since the IPO. At first I was wavering if I should go see him, given the damaging IPO and the history we all have come to accept as defining his character. The brush with fame took over and I decided after all to see the men in the flesh answer questions that were obviously predictable. He was very upbeat, positive and exemplified how in America we learn from our mistakes and step-up to the plate. In all fairness I think that he did what was expected of him to improve confidence. A few things though captured my attention. His criticism of HTML5 as a sub-standard option for the mobile applications was not a surprise, but his focus on mobile as the end-all of the future of consumer computing left me perplexed. I, for one, do not believe that the future is the mobile phone as the terminal of user interaction.
When Zuckerberg focuses on this vision, in my opinion, he actually mirrors the criticism regarding the failure for Facebook to have capitalized from advertisement on the mobile platforms. This is when the CEO looses his vision, he simply invested his strategy on the short term expectation to monetize of the fact that many people use the mobile device to communicate. I, on the other hand, have a very different vision about the future of the mobile phone and how people will interact with information. Let’s say that I believe that the phone will be a information wallet capable of interfacing with pervasive touch screens equipped with human interface exchange features accessing our personal and community information. But I digress.
One big disappointment, although expected, was that he left after his last question and did not take any questions from the audience. This was perhaps a good decision from the board of director, but I am not so sure that it worked out for Mark who was starting to have the audience warm-up to him!
What was fascinating to me is that after Zukerberg’s interview, every one was asking about HTML5 and mobile native applications. It immediately became the single focus of every conversation surrounding any, and I mean any, site and application shown at TechCrunch. It was amazing to observe the power a a few words and, how they could set an “important” expectation from investors, and force the retooling of product development teams.
Overall it was interesting to hear him and see the impact of his claims and strategy on the attendees when left. Fame definitely is a great influencer, especially when you have an agenda to execute. My takeaway is that innovation was clearly not in what he was communicating. Basically it kept all the issues, other than how can Facebook make more money, open and on the table for grab!
(My screen showing the tweather report during the event as Zuckerberg was making his way to the stage)