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D11: Welcome to the Post-PC World, for Real This Time


One of the great pleasures of producing D is that every year the discussion is different, because the technology, Internet and media businesses are so dynamic. But, as we convene this, the 11th edition of our conference, the digital world is indisputably at an inflection point: The PC has peaked, and it’s all about post-PC mobile devices, software and services. That means smartphones and tablets, for now, with wearable devices coming on strong.

Our D speakers and attendees have been talking about this trend for years, long before Apple’s Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January of 2007. But this year, we gather just about six weeks after the report of the worst quarterly decline in PC sales ever recorded, while sales of smartphones and tablets continue to surge. Android devices, which didn’t exist until late 2008, cover the earth, and Apple alone has sold more than 140 million tablets since April of 2010. And Samsung seems to be everywhere.

It’s no surprise, then, that everyone’s new slogan is “mobile first!”

This change has staggering implications for companies ranging from unknown software startups to the “Gang of Four” platform giants identified by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at D9 — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — and the giant he didn’t list, Microsoft.

What happens to huge companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard that lack much of a post-PC or mobile presence? Can the company that kicked off the new era, Apple, maintain its reputation for innovation in the post-Jobs era under the onslaught of the Android juggernaut?

Can Google maintain control of its Android platform in the face of Samsung’s power and Amazon’s refusal to use Google’s apps? Can Facebook’s aggressive new mobile strategy succeed? Will Amazon do as well at phones and other devices as it appears to have done at tablets? And can Microsoft become the third big platform player with Windows 8 and Windows Phone? If not, does BlackBerry have a shot?

And more: Will wearable devices that go beyond fitness bands, such as Google Glass, be the next historic game-changers? Or will they remain niche products?

Most of all, how does the mobile surge and the wearable promise change user behavior, entertainment and productivity? What will be the impact on society?

Finally, given all these sweeping changes, can anybody other than a few big companies make real money in mobile?

We’ll discuss these questions and more with a stellar lineup of speakers, one that we’re especially proud to have sit in our signature red chairs this year.

Leading off will be Apple CEO Tim Cook, leader of arguably still the most influential tech giant, but one that faces the challenges of high expectations and its fiercest competition in years. Has Apple lost its cool, or is it just secretly readying its next big surprise to take the world by storm?

Apple’s nemesis, Google, will be represented by Sundar Pichai, who recently took over the Android platform in addition to his longtime leadership of Chrome and Google’s apps. Will he combine the two platforms? How can he balance Android’s open-source roots with the need for Google to make money off the platform?

We’ll also welcome back Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is not only helping to steer a hugely important company trying to conquer mobile, but also inspiring millions of women with her “Lean In” book and larger project.

Twitter’s smart and funny CEO, Dick Costolo, will also return to the D stage to talk about the future of his iconic service, especially on mobile. And Ben Silbermann, the co-founder of Pinterest, another social networking success story, will make his D debut.

Elon Musk, who is merely a pioneer of both the electric car and private space-flight industries, will take our stage for the first time. We wonder: What has he done for us lately?

And to answer the question of what’s up at Google’s hardware arm, Motorola, we’ll have its CEO, Dennis Woodside, and his advanced research chief, Regina Dugan, who wowed the crowd at D9 when she appeared as the head of DARPA, the Pentagon’s futuristic research arm.

Since speech is a core, vital technology in the mobile era, we’ll welcome Paul Ricci, CEO of speech giant Nuance. Will he recognize our accents?

The CEO of General Electric, Jeff Immelt, will talk about how the digital revolution affects traditional corporate giants. And Tom Staggs, who heads Disney’s theme parks, will show off the latest technology being used by visitors to navigate the iconic destinations.

Recently departed Windows chief Steven Sinfosky, who also ran Microsoft’s Office division, will share his thoughtful views on the new post-PC landscape.

For another look at the overall landscape, we’ll have Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker walk us through her famous annual Internet report. And PayPal co-founder Max Levchin will show off his latest project, which links technology and anatomy.

This year, we’ll also have some pairings of speakers we think will yield interesting insights. Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, the well-known enterprise cloud-storage firm, will appear jointly with John Chambers, CEO of enterprise tech giant Cisco.

The CEO of Sony, Kazuo Hirai, will be joined by Jed York, the boss of the San Francisco 49ers, to talk about the intersection of tech and sports. From the entertainment world, we’ll have a trio of managers of famous stars, who have been investing in tech in a big way: Troy Carter, chairman and CEO of the Atom Factory; Guy Oseary, partner of A-Grade Investments; and Scooter Braun, founder of SB Projects. Respectively, the three manage Lady Gaga, Madonna and Justin Bieber.

The witty and sharp Barry Diller, who knows the traditional entertainment and Internet businesses inside and out, will be back, no doubt to defend his right, via his latest venture Aereo, to stream broadcast television. And new CNN boss Jeff Zucker will join him to discuss the future of all TV.

We’ll have Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, paired with I. Marlene King, creator and executive producer of ABC’s tech-savvy hit show “Pretty Little Liars.”

Finally, we have a fascinating lineup of demos, including not one, but two companies that focus on another emerging post-PC segment: The Internet of Things.

So buckle up and get ready to enjoy, learn and network. It’s time for D once again.

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