Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

Welcome to Web 3.0 Redux

Walt and KaraLast year, for the seventh D: All Things Digital conference, we wrote an essay titled “Welcome to Web 3.0” in which we made a prediction that raised some hackles in the blogosphere.

“So what’s the seminal development that’s ushering in the era of Web 3.0? It’s the real arrival, after years of false predictions, of the thin client, running clean, simple software against cloud-based data and services,” we wrote, specifically referencing the growing popularity of Apple’s iPhone as the harbinger of this important trend.

We continued: “But this is not just about one company, one platform or even one form factor. No, this new phenomenon is about handheld computers from many companies, with software platforms and distribution mechanisms tightly tied to cloud-based services, whether they are multi-player games, e-commerce offerings or corporate databases.”

And indeed, looking back over the last year, we think we got it pretty right, as companies of all kinds and in all arenas raced to be part of the social, mobile, cloud-centered action.

This fusion — and, really, collision — of key trends will be at the heart of our focus for D8, as the major companies in tech and media try to figure out how consumers want to conduct their digital lives going forward, and with what devices.

Inevitably, this has begun to cause some major rifts among the powers-that-be throughout tech and media. Whether it’s Apple versus Google, or Twitter versus Facebook, or tech companies versus a spate of Hollywood and media powerhouses, it’s clear to us that a major realignment of consumer expectations and desires is taking place, along with a fundamental shift in how we all relate to computing.

The last time this happened was when the Web first became commercially popular more than 15 years ago. Before that, it happened during the advent of the graphical user interface.

In other words, buckle up, as it’s going to be another bumpy, but fascinating, ride.

That’s why we can think of no better person to open D8 than Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, the iconic leader who has been deeply involved in each of these major shifts.

Time has not diminished his influence or his drive, and Jobs just upped the ante again with the launch of the iPad tablet, a form factor that we’ll be seeing a lot of over the next year from a number of players.

Jobs has made many appearances onstage at past D conferences, often breaking news about pending products, and we hope that will continue this year.

But he’s not the only one with a lot to talk about, in what should be a very news-filled year at D.

Also onstage: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is appearing with the soft- ware giant’s chief software architect, cloud computing pioneer Ray Ozzie. We hope both will address the issues the company faces as the cloud looms large.

We’ll ask director James Cameron about Hollywood’s challenges, as well as the impact of tech on the film industry and his mega-hit movie “Avatar.”

Also onstage over the next three days:

Steve Burke, COO of Comcast, which recently purchased NBC Universal, to talk about how the multi-pronged entertainment creation and delivery business is coping with the shifts in the industry.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, who must figure out a way to push a national broadband policy to handle the explosive growth of digital consumption.

Former AOL leader Steve Case, who will take a look back while talking about figuring out what’s coming next.

Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, which is embroiled in an ugly legal fight with Apple even as it tries to work closely with Google and others to make devices consumers love.

John Donahoe, president and CEO of eBay, the giant auction site that has been trying to remake itself as its customers move from the Web to mobile and social buying.

Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, the company making the chips to make new devices smaller and more flexible.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG, on how to make entertainment that will appeal to a young population steeped in digital culture.

Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, about the digitization of the automobile and whether that’s something Detroit can use to bring consumers back into the fold.

A pairing of Richard Rosenblatt, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Demand Media with ProPublica editor-in-chief, president and CEO Paul Steiger, who will talk about the future of journalism and publishing.

Vivian Schiller, president and CEO of National Public Radio, which has aggressively moved into delivering its content via the Web and via mobile apps.

Tim Armstrong, the former Google exec who took over AOL, about whether it is possible to revive one of the Internet’s great brands.

And, last but hardly least, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who is returning to the D stage to talk about the amazing growth of his social networking site over the last few years and the implications Facebook’s growing power has for everyone else.

It’s a pretty full lineup, as you can see – just the kind needed to address the vast changes that are sweeping through our digital world.

So, as we said, hold on tight.

Walt & Kara

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