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Walt Mossberg and the art of meeting people

Thursday, 19 December, 2013

“This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here.” So writes Walt Mossberg in a piece titled “Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews.” The boots that he wore were so large that the Journal has picked four journalists to fill them. They are all fine writers and good people, no doubt, but it will be a while before they’ll be to bring to the table the ineffable thing that made Walt Mossberg so respected and, even, loved.

He was at the Macworld convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on 9 January 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and after the presentation the Apple CEO handed the magical object of desire to the Wall Street Journal reviewer to get his impressions. Two weeks later, Walt Mossberg was in Munich at the annual DLD Conference and there I had the pleasure of shaking the hand that had used the first the iPhone. The most memorable thing about our short conversation was that right in the middle of it two Israeli entrepreneurs audaciously intervened with an elevator pitch about their web-based product. Mossberg took their chutzpah in his stride, and in between talking to me about the iPhone he asked the entrepreneurial pair a series of short, pertinent questions about their innovation. It was a bravura performance and everybody went away from the gathering with the feeling that they had benefitted from meeting the incredibly patient, polite and informed Walt Mossberg.

The iPhone is at number 9 in Mossberg’s list of the dozen influential personal-technology products he reviewed over the past two decades: “Apple electrified the tech world with this device — the first truly smart smartphone. It is an iPod, an Internet device and a phone combined in one small gadget. Its revolutionary multi-touch user interface is gradually replacing the PC’s graphical user interface on many devices.”

Walt Mossberg is not retiring. He’s said to be working on a new online venture and rumour has it that he’s been in talks with NBCUniversal, Bloomberg, Condé Nast, Cox and The Washington Post Company. Mossberg and Bezos? That would be a potent force. The patience of Walt would be needed, though, to make it work.

This just in: Business Insider is reporting that Mossberg and his business partner Kara Swisher have hired Kenneth Li, recently of Reuters, to be the managing editor of their new venture. “They reportedly have investment from NBCUniversal for the new site which launches next year.”

Walt Mossberg and Steve Jobs


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