Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Festival of Gadgets at the Churchill Club With Guest Geek: Google's Marissa Mayer

Last night, Walt Mossberg and I co-hosted our annual holiday gadget fest for the Churchill Club in Silicon Valley.

Now in its fifth year, it was called “Making a List: The Fifth Annual What’s Hot and What’s Not in Personal Technology” and took place in Palo Alto, Calif. Our guest were Marissa Mayer of Google and tech consultant Greg Harper.

Walt and I typically show off several devices we think are interesting and try to identify some important trends.

Here’s a video of Walt, Greg and Marissa at the event:

(I still am having problems with the Brightcove player, so I uploaded the video to YouTube.)

For example, Walt showed the new Amazon Kindle electronic book reader (which he did not actually like so much in his review of the device this week), as well as the new version of Sony’s e-book offering. He also showed some new cellphones that are trying to mimic the Apple iPhone. His take: Great software in consumer electronics is key this year.

I showed new robotic devices from iRobot–the new version of its popular Roomba vacuum and its new wireless gutter cleaner called the Looj. We had an actual gutter on stage, full of leaves I made my much-abused assistant Ed Daly collect from a gardener’s truck we found on a suburban street.

And every year, we’ve brought in uber-gadget geek and tech consultant Harper, who always brings in a truckload of cutting edge and sometimes freaky stuff. That included an egg-shaped speaker that dances from, of course, Japan, as well as a solar battery charger, a $400 laptop and a vanity mirror that is a Webcam in disguise. Harper posited that all devices would have to be always connected going forward.

And, also annually, we invite a celebrity geek from well-known tech companies. In the past, we’ve had Google’s Larry Page, Jerry Yang of Yahoo, RealNetworks’ Rob Glaser and Chad Hurley of YouTube–geeky guys all. But Mayer, one of Google’s top execs, proved the nerdiest with a wide range of cool stuff.

She showed off a keyboard whose keys had embedded LCD screens, a wireless rabbit, an alarm clock that can jump off your nightstand and a T-shirt with a wireless signal locator in it. She also did a demo of exactly what the new Google Android operating system for cellphones looks like. Take careful notes: It looks an awful lot like the iPhone.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik