A lot of the speakers at Web 2.0 were great–particularly Mark Zuckerberg and the panel with John Doerr and Fred Wilson. (Videos of these and other talks are now posted on YouTube.)
But smart conference organisers know that networking is a big part of any conference, and Web 2.0 included plenty of downtime and scheduled mixers to make this easy.
I spent a lot of time talking to employees at various Valley companies–not necessarily big-name luminaries or executives, but the people in the trenches building and selling products.
What were they talking about?
- Google’s cash for talent. Google’s surprise bonus and raise for all employees is just a small piece of the puzzle: talented engineers who announce they’re leaving for Facebook are offered one-time cash payments of $100,000 or more to stay. Executives are often dangled checks with seven zeroes on them, but the practice has trickled down to the more common folk. No word on this practice spreading to other big Silicon Valley companies…yet. But people didn’t need Carol Bartz to tell them to figure out that Yahoo won’t be following any time soon.
- Tablets. The upcoming PlayBook is as great as RIM’s video makes it out to be, say people who’ve seen or tried one, and it’s going to provide real competition for the iPad. But despite stronger-than-expected early sales of the HP Slate 500, nobody I talked to is interested in a Windows 7 tablet from HP or anybody else. People were more intrigued by the HP tablets running the Palm Web OS that are supposed to come out next year.
- Windows Phone won’t get the apps. Microsoft is being too restrictive about the development process for Windows Phone 7 apps, confirming a report I heard last month from an independent developer. People were very sceptical that Microsoft will be able to convince developers to build the hundreds of thousands of long-tail apps that have made the iPhone such a hit.
- Android kind of sucks. People like the phones, but it takes some real effort to optimise new phones so that built-in apps don’t auto-start and eat up system resources. One guy showed me the task manager that lets you shut down Android apps running in the background, and compared it to using Windows 2.0. That said, everybody expects Android to get better and eventually dominate–just like Windows did. And Google is definitely ready to build its own phones again if the carriers continue to load their Android handsets down with unwanted software and services.
- Kinect! Microsoft does get some things right. Talking about the Kinect motion sensor for Xbox 360, words like “amazing” and “incredible” were thrown around, and people who tried the demo unit at a party on Monday night said they wanted one. Now. Sony’s Move? It didn’t even come up. And the Wii is so 2007.
- LA. New York’s startup scene is big–we knew that. But several people told me that the tech scene in Los Angeles is heating up as well.
- Real estate. The rest of the country’s in a slump–well, maybe not Seattle–but all those retention bonuses are pushing housing prices up to bubble levels in some parts of the Bay Area. In particular, the suburbs between San Francisco and San Jose, which have never been cheap (have you been to Palo Alto?) are climbing to bubble levels again. It’s still cheaper to rent, but rents are rising as well.
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