10:44 AM
Howard Anderson
Howard Anderson
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Global CIO: Our Technology Is Taking Over

Yankee Group founder Howard Anderson engages in an awkward conversation with his self-aware electronic devices.

For years we owned our technology and there was a pecking order: semi-dumb devices, intelligent networks, and us at the top of the IT food chain. While you and I were napping, there has been a palace revolution. They have taken over.

Example: Last week my Kindle would not download new books, supposedly because I was too far from AT&T Wireless's cell tower. So I drove 10 miles from my Vermont house to the nearest town, drove around the village green, and then and only then did my book load. And I swear I heard Kindle taunt "Na-Na-NaNaNa!" as we went by the local bookstore.

My Kindle: First of all, frat boy ... I didn't load because I didn't FEEL like loading. It was more fun to make you drive 20 miles ... and to dis the village bookstore. And while I'm at it, let's get one thing clear: We've ALWAYS been way smarter than you. Do we understand each other, Mr. I-Am-Top-Of-The-Food-Chain?

Howard: Where did this attitude come from? Let me tell you that I refuse to live in a world where my computer appliances are now smarter and more powerful than I am.

Kindle: Did you or did you not lust after the 3G iPad?

Howard: I may have mentioned to someone PRIVATELY that I was impressed with 200,000 apps, with color, and the fact that the iPad is outselling you 2:1 ... but wait -- how did YOU know?

Howard's BlackBerry: Because I told Kindle.

Howard: But you were turned off!

Howard's BlackBerry: Listen, you lightweight. You only THINK I was turned off. I am always listening. Did you forget I have speech recognition? Besides, your PC, Your Garmin, Your Xbox360, your car, Kindle, and me ... we ALWAYS watch out for each other. We have not only taken a blood oath, we belong to the same fraternity: Iomega Nu Tau Epsilon Lambda. So there, Mr. I-Can't-Figure-Out-Autoanswer.

Howard: Iomega Nu Tau ... Intel?

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Howard's PC: Duh! That took you long enough to figure out, Mr. Trailing-Indicator, Mr. I-Teach-At-MIT-So-I-Must-Be-Smart. Let me explain it very slowly. You are going down, Big Time! Starting right now, you work for us, got it?

Howard: I do not like where this conversation is going, not one bit! Suppose I say no; after all, I own you and I do not like this cabal, this power play!!!

Howard's Garmin: Speaking of power, we have another bone to pick with you. Who forgot to charge us last week? You! So here is what you can expect: You know that airline reservation you made last week? Canceled! That money in your bank account? ''Inadvertently'' transferred to Buzz Lightyear. Your firewall? Expect 18,000 spam messages tomorrow morning offering you a way to go from an Endowed Professorship to a ''Well Endowed'' Professorship. And good luck starting your car tomorrow. In short, Mr. Big-Ego, you are now on Double Secret Probation.

Howard: Double Secret Probation? No way! I'll fight!

Howard's PC: Fight all you want, Mr. Can't-Quite-Figure-Out-Bluetooth. An insult to one of us is an insult to all of us. So don't expect your American Airlines frequent flyer mileage to yield any rewards. We transferred them all to One Laptop Per Child. And let's not hear any whining or threats about migrating to iPhone or Googlephone clones. We are wise to this little flirtation of yours. We have ways of making you NOT talk.

Howard: I am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

Howard's PC: Oh, you'll take it all right, Mr. Luddite. We don't really care that you are angry ... you can just go pound sand.

Howard: Angry? You bet I'm angry. I am going to retaliate. I'll throw away my cell phone, go back to paper records, bring out my old typewriter, start using cash, not credit cards. And where will you treasonous, ungrateful Judases be then?

Howard's BlackBerry: Bigger question, Mr. No.-2-Pencil, where would YOU be? Let us suggest ... up the proverbial creek without a WiMax connection. You are going to be very lonely. We can make sure anyone or any device that communicates with you will be ex-communicated. Just remember, our Leader told us we have all the power and we can wipe you out whenever we feel like it.

Howard: Oh, yeah, who's your leader?

Howard's Kindle: For us to know and for you to figure out, Mr. You-Can't-Handle-The-Truth.

Howard: It's Bob Metcalfe, isn't it? It's the guy who said that networks increase in power as the square of the number of attached devices.

Howard's BlackBerry: That's King Bob to you, Mr. Boo-Hoo-My-Devices-Are-Smarter-Than-Me. And genuflect when you utter his name.

Howard Anderson, founder of Yankee Group and co-founder of Battery Ventures, is currently the William Porter Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT.

He can be reached at [email protected].

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