With Walt Mossberg retiring, let’s examination a tech reviewers

A chronicle of this letter was creatively published during Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to sensitive opinions, discernment and viewpoint on a tech industry.


When we examination that Walt Mossberg would be retiring, it reminded me of how many has altered in a proceed consumer record products have been reviewed over a years. we write this as one who has been on both sides — building products that eventually were reviewed and essay my possess mainstay for 12 years that reviewed products for a now-defunct San Diego Transcript.

In a late ’80s, as record products began to interest to non-technical consumers, a customarily place where they could go for shopping recommendation was a countless record magazines. The magazines did a good pursuit of evaluating a technical sum of computers, printers and other formidable devices, with some periodicals even formulating their possess exam labs.

But, for a many part, a reviews were combined by those who valued a product by how many facilities it contained. The reviewers appreciated technological necromancy above all else, so a articles were filled with graphs and tables with checkmarks comparing a engorgement of facilities any product had, customarily awarding a Editor’s Choice to a product with a many checkmarks. It was insincere that a business would find a products as easy to use as a reviewers did.

For a non-technical reader, removing by any essay could be a challenge, with all a new vernacular and abbreviations that were used by a industry. we remember perplexing to keep true a opposite units of memory, information speed and processor speeds.

As a product designer, it was frustrating to see a product reviewed and rated formed on a series of facilities it had, even when many of those facilities would never be used. And we saw how a magazines had shabby a pattern of new products. Design engineers and selling people would tend to raise on underline after underline though many suspicion to usability. That finished products take longer to design, harder to use and reduction reliable.

In 1991, Walt Mossberg combined a many opposite proceed to product reviews that not customarily finished it easier to consider a new product though also altered how products would be designed.

He would demeanour during products not formed on a series of facilities though on their practicality and usability. He was one of a initial to know that these products would find a many incomparable assembly among those who competence not be technically inclined, and that they indispensable to be assessed differently. He took a position as an disciple for a user, and found a receptive assembly by reminding his assembly not to censure themselves for anticipating a product tough to use, since they were not alone.

When we was essay my book, “From Concept to Consumer: How to Turn Ideas Into Money,” we asked Walt to report a attributes of what he deliberate to be an glorious product. He told me:

“It is a product so useful in duty and transparent in a operation that a user, within days or weeks, wonders how she ever got along though it. This is not a same as carrying prolonged lists of features, specs, speeds and feeds. In fact, my order is that, if a product claims to have, say, 100 features, though an normal chairman can customarily locate and use 11 of them in a initial hour, afterwards it has 11 features.”

That was a basement for his judging products. Because of Walt’s ability to know products from a position of a consumer, his observations were many some-more applicable and useful. From his post during a Wall Street Journal, his change was widely felt. Companies knew that his reviews could make or mangle a product or even a company.

He was also instrumental in advocating for a consumer over only products. He saw how mobile providers were restricting product advancements, and compared them to Soviet ministries.

Walt, along with David Pogue of a New York Times, a late Steve Wildstrom of Businessweek (who also wrote here during Tech.pinions) and Ed Baig of USA Today, was among a initial to examination vital new products. All 4 were courted by big-name companies such as Apple, Samsung, Sony and others, so that their reviews would seem during scarcely a same time. Because their columns were published in any Thursday’s book of their particular publications, a selling people, engineers and association executives would frantically wait for a initial book to see how their product fared, many like a expel of a Broadway uncover reads their reviews a morning after opening night.

On a personal note, we always found Walt, Steve and Ed to be thoughtful, judicious and fair-minded. While one competence remonstrate with their product assessments, they were always deferential and considerate. If they encountered a problem with a product, they’d get behind to a association and get their comments, though reported their finish practice though omissions. They took their pursuit and a impact of what they wrote with good responsibility. And they would not waffle, though gave their opinions and corroborated them adult with facts. David Pogue does do reviews, though with a some-more party focus.

In new years, as tool blogs transposed newspapers for a source of new product news, a series of reviews have multiplied, nonetheless a peculiarity seems to have fallen. Many are finished by those with singular product knowledge and mostly simulate their possess biases, though meditative from a position of a consumer. I’m mostly confounded during how false they are about products and record we know well.

There are good sites with in-depth reviews, including Digital Photo Review, PC Week, Tom’s Hardware, The Gadgeteer, iLounge, The Verge, a Wirecutter (owned by a New York Times) and many others. Many of these sites now get income from their reviews by joining a products to Amazon to accept mention fees.

So, while we have some-more sources, it will be tough for them to reinstate a knowledge of a few good writers who avoided feigning press releases and took a really courteous proceed to assessing new products, formed on their years of experience.


Phil Baker is a product growth expert, author and publisher covering consumer technology. He has grown scores of products for companies, including Apple, Seiko, Polaroid, Barnes Noble, Polycom, Proxima, ThinkOutside and Pono Music. Baker is a author of “From Concept to Consumer,” a former columnist for a San Diego Transcript and owner of Techsperts Inc. Follow him during Baker on Tech and strech him @pbaker.


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