September 7, 2011
The normally quiet summer has been anything but this year. It has been full of Events. As a British Prime Minister from what we used to call ‘the ruling class’, replied when asked what caused him most trouble when in office: “Events, dear boy, events”.
On that basis it has also been a bad summer for Marxist economic determinists (if any remain), and long-term industry forecasters, as natural disasters and individual people have clearly weighed heavy on the trajectory of media history.
Throughout the summer, the further consequences of the Japanese earthquake, in terms of supply chain damage and lost profits, have unfolded and there are doubtless more to come.
And in the UK the world has watched as the Shakespearian drama of the Murdoch’s, BSkyB and phone hacking has played out. The BSkyB deal has been sacrificed, Britain’s biggest newspaper has been shut, but the last Act is still in development and the family’s loss of control of News Corporation may still prove the denouement.
At the end of August it was announced that Steve Jobs was stepping down as Apple CEO due to ill health. Here is an individual who, without question, has affected the economic weather for 30 years. He and his designers so perfectly predicted and lead the shift to intuitive UIs, first on computers then on everything else, that they changed the way we use electronics for ever and upturned the whole economics of several industries along the way. His influence hasn’t been entirely benign – the personal data grab and gouging commissions on i-apps, plus the assertion of intellectual property rights over shapes and styles attest to that – but overall the Apple effect has been huge and progressive.
People and completely unpredictable events make a mockery of the forecasters’ art. It was ever so, it’s just sometimes more obvious than others.