CARLSBAD, CA — In her bid to rob her new boss of all remaining dignity, conference organizer Kara Swisher has arranged to have gene-analysis startup 23andMe map aging media mogul Rupert Murdoch's chromosomes at the D6 conference, AllThingsD's John Paczkowski tells us. Come on. At 77, does he have any left? Leave the man's DNA alone, you mean lesbian! Swisher's DNA is also being tested, as is that of Googlers Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. Brin's wife, Anne Wojcicki, is a cofounder of 23andMe; Brin provided the company a loan to get it off the ground. In a real-world DNA experiment, Wojcicki is expecting the couple's first child.
CARLSBAD, CA — The other night, Gizmodo editor Brian Lam and I were talking about what he'd learned about Bill Gates's brain. Our conclusion: Like an overstuffed hard drive, he needs defragging — the utility that rebuilds a drive bit by bit to put it in proper working order. Buried in software wizardry, Gates has lost touch with what people want to do with technology. But why pick on Gates? None of the speakers at the D6 conference, held in this Southern California seaside town, have shown they have much in the way of ideas.
CARLSBAD, CA — Mark Zuckerberg has learned nothing. Taking the stage at D6, he uttered nothing but bromides and nonsequiturs. Examples: "Facebook is a technology company ... a technology company is a company that creates technology"; "Religion, that's a big thing around the world". At his South By Southwest keynote, Zuckerberg benefitted from a crowd obsessed with the friendliness of Sarah Lacy's questions. With Kara Swisher, never a kind locutor, Zuckerberg had the spotlight shone on him, and he came off simply blank. Which is why he hired Sheryl Sandberg from Google, right?
CARLSBAD, CA, BUT NOT AT THE FOUR SEASONS AVIARA RESORT — Was it something I wrote? I can't claim to have been minding my own business at D6, the Wall Street Journal's hoi-polloi-need-not-apply tech conference. After all, my business is to mind everyone else's. But I can't think what exactly I did was that outrageous enough to prompt Ryan Carter, head of security for the Four Seasons Aviara Resort, to ask me to leave the property altogether. (One of Carter's underlings had previously asked me not to venture into the conference itself, a request I respected.) No matter. Eight-D6-ed, unseasonably ushered out, I shall blog on. A bonus of the trip back to my hotel: I had the cabbie detour past the Palomar Airport, where rows of private jets were lined up. Photos of mogul transportation, after the jump:
CARLSBAD, CA — On stage at D6, Sue Decker couldn't offer any explanation why she was qualified to be president of Yahoo. But if you ask Valleywag, she's doing a bang-up job of pursuing Yahoo's strategy of embracing openness. For example, by holding a meeting within camera-lens length of Valleywag in the Four Seasons Lobby Lounge. Our eye was first drawn by Yahoo Media Group chief Scott Moore's blindingly colorful Madras shirt; we then saw he was sitting with Decker. Two of the other participants: Gordon McLeod and Matthew Goldberg, business-side executives at Dow Jones, which means they were likely discussing some kind of news-content partnership between Yahoo and the Wall Street Journal. I'd thought I spooted Brad Garlinghouse, the Yahoo executive who wrote the famous "Peanut Butter Memo," in the group, but I'm told he wasn't there. I later spotted him strolling down the halls with Yahoo board member Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision. More pictures of the meeting:
CARLSBAD, CA — How rarely can one give one's enemies an in-your-face comeuppance? For Yahoo's Scott Moore, the chance came during Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes's interview at D6. Bewkes claimed that AOL was No. 1 in news, finance, and a host of other categories. "Where are you getting your numbers?" asked Moore during the session's open-mic portion, pointing out that AOL led Yahoo in all the areas Bewkes mentioned. Bewkes offered a feeble parry, suggesting that the numbers were close. Not even, Moore replied, rattling off how many millions of users the Yahoo sites he leads beat AOL. A satisfying moment, but shouldn't Moore be keeping his career options open at a time like this? (Photo by Asa Mathat/AllThingsD.com)
CARLSBAD, CA — For most of their D conference interviews, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg trade off interview duties. But why was Mossberg the one to do the D6 interview with Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and president Sue Decker? Swisher frequently covers Yahoo in her AllThingsD.com blog; I can't think of the last time Mossberg has typed the letters "y-a-h-o-o" in his gadget reviews. Here's my theory: Decker and Yang agreed to speak at D6, but only if Mossberg was the interviewer, not Swisher. Then Swisher tweaked them by asking a question — not on stage, but on video. If so, serves Yang and Decker right for not nailing down all the conditions. Think they'll be having words with Yahoo flack Jill Nash afterwards? (Photo by Asa Mathat/AllThingsD.com)
CARLSBAD, CA — Who are those cool cats in sunglasses at D6? Why, it's Jim Breyer of Accel Partners, a board member at Facebook, lunching with Wendi Murdoch, wife of the News Corp. CEO and chairwoman of MySpace China. Also at the table: Martha Stewart, seen here to the left; Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures; and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe.
CARLSBAD, CA — Here's Microsoft dealmaker Hank Vigil chatting up AOL COO Ron Grant over lunch at the D6 conference. Why is that interesting? Because we overheard Vigil gabbing away on his cell phone earlier today about the "economic terms" of some deal. Microsoft famously made a run at merging its online businesses with Time Warner's AOL a few years ago. As with its recent talks with Yahoo, Microsoft only succeeded at driving its target into Google's arms; Google has a search deal with AOL, and owns 5 percent of the company. Could AOL be an option once more for Microsoft? Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is set to take the stage soon. While he's not likely to say anything about talks, it's a safe bet Vigil and Grant will be seeing more of each other.
CARLSBAD, CA — I'll be unabashed about it: Part of the fun of a conference like D6 are the casual mogul sightings. Look! Barry Diller in a schlumpy brown sweater! Say, isn't that Jeff Bezos chatting up a Googler? But my favorite happenstances are the reunions of frenemies. Take, for example, this chance encounter between Marcy Simon, the former girlfriend of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Elliot Schrage, the head of Facebook PR. (Sandwiched awkwardly in the middle is Google VP Susan Wojcicki.) Simon and Schrage's back story, and more pictures from the hotel lobby at D6, after the jump.
Attempting to edit down Kara Swisher's epic two-part behind-the-scenes opus on the making of D6 into something more manageable, it was hard not to note a certain passive aggression. The deadpan delivery of criticisms quickly couched as attempts at humor, the needling of uncomfortable minions with the constant gaze of her camera and, above all, more than a little envy when it comes to the status her colleague at the Wall Street Journal Walt Mossberg enjoys. At one point, she even asks a staffer who grants access to the conference, "Are you dangling hope and then snatching it away, which was our instruction?" Yes, yes they are.
CARLSBAD, CA — One of the best things about AllThingsD.com is John Paczkowski, the site's sardonic tech blogger, whom Kara Swisher cleverly poached from the San Jose Mercury News's Good Morning Silicon Valley blog. At the D6 conference, there has been no sign of John Paczkowski — only an overly sincere reporter impersonating him. There is no speaker the normally acidic Paczkowski can't find something nice to say about. Who is this guy, and what has he done with the real John?
Lame lame lame Guitar Hero world tour demo ... Paula Abdul is judge
After being kicked out of D6 — kicked out of mere proximity to D6, really — I learned I didn't miss much. Want a summary of Bill Gates's presentation at D6 of Windows Seven, Microsoft's supposedly exciting new operating system with multitouch features similar to the year-old Apple iPhone? "Windows Seven is bullshit," says Gizmodo editor Brian Lam. Here's to more insights like that at the Four Seasons hotel bar! The highlights reel, in case you're in doubt:
CARLSBAD, CA — What's this on my table at the Four Seasons Aviara's Lobby Lounge? Why, it's a copy of the program for D6! How careless for someone to have left it out in a public space, where anyone might read it. And there's even an attendee list! I won't bore you with the name of everyone who's going, but here are some names that caught my eye:
CARLSBAD, CA — I wasn't just eighty-sixed, folks. No, I was eight-D6'd. There I was, charming my way through the crowd at the Wall Street Journal's D6 conference — why hello, Sir Howard Stringer of Sony! Oh, was that Steve Case? — when a woman announced herself as "in-house security" and informed me that "the client" had asked that I be shown the door. "The client" being Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, the conference organizers, and "the door" actually just the way to the hotel bar, where I'm having a lovely fruity beverage. And Swisher and Mossberg were too late with the bum rush. I'd already been working my camera for hours. While Bill Gates bores attendees with a preview of Windows Seven, Microsoft's latest attempt to annoy the majority of computer users, you can enjoy the snapshots I took. Among the nerdspotting: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Max Levchin of Slide.
CARLSBAD, CA — Next month, Bill Gates is retiring from his day job at Microsoft. That means his appearance tonight at the D6 conference is his last hurrah. To go out with a bang, he is debuting Windows Seven, John Paczkowski reports on the conference's AllThingsD website. Details are scant, but we've heard Microsoft was rushing out Seven to make up for the failures of Vista. Gates, Paczkowski writes, will demonstrate an "all new user interface." Which speaks to Microsoft's problems. Users are not demanding new interfaces; corporations are uninterested in retraining their staffs, and consumers are unmotivated to learn the quirks of a new operating system. Gates would have been better served by simply improving the operating system's reliability and performance — but that does not make for an interesting show.
CARLSBAD, CA — D, the Wall Street Journal schmoozefest which opened today with a round of golf at the Four Seasons Aviara Resort, is not the conference for the rest of us. It attracts a host of tech and media CEOs who agree to be harangued onstage by Walt Mossberg, the sexagenarian of sexy gadgets, and Kara Swisher, the diminutive media commentaterrorist of AllThingsD.com. In exchange, they get to seem classy and witty, if only by comparison. It is the sort of elite event to which Valleywag is not invited. We showed up anyway.