Why Rupert Murdoch should defrag Bill Gates — and the rest of tech

CARLSBAD, CA — The other night, Gizmodo editor Brian Lam and I were talking about what he'd learned about Bill Gates's brain. Our conclusion: Like an overstuffed hard drive, he needs defragging — the utility that rebuilds a drive bit by bit to put it in proper working order. Buried in software wizardry, Gates has lost touch with what people want to do with technology. But why pick on Gates? None of the speakers at the D6 conference, held in this Southern California seaside town, have shown they have much in the way of ideas.

Jeff Bezos talked about Amazon.com's Kindle e-book; Activision's Bobby Kotick showed off a videogame; Sony's Howard Stringer unveiled a television. Barry Diller charmed everyone with his brilliance long enough that they forgot he really hasn't accomplished what he set out to on the Net. Michael Dell, Jerry Yang, and Jeff Bewkes simply seemed clueless to the realities of their business predicaments. Mark Zuckerberg proved terminally incapable of sharing. Only the last speaker of Wednesday night, Rupert Murdoch, showed any real spark.

Murdoch's one new idea of late — buying a newspaper, the very newspaper that produced the very conference series at which he appeared — was so old media, as one says dismissively in San Francisco coffeeshops. So last century. So over. One couldn't conceive of a bigger raised middle finger to the Valley's innovators. Yet Murdoch argued that he bought the Wall Street Journal because he was attached to news, not newspapers, and talked of delivering customized wireless alerts — just the sort of thing a mogul says at these conferences to seem passably clever, but he pulled it off.

What he is not attached to is journalism as it is practiced today. Today's reporters have brains overflowing with rules and rubrics, archaic practices that isolate them from the notion of writing interesting stories. Write for readers, not the Pulitzer Prize committee, Murdoch said.

How simple! How brilliant. How rather unlike Bill Gates. Perhaps it's not just the Microsoft founder's brain that needs a good working-through. Perhaps it's the entire media-technology complex that needs reformatting. Murdoch's iconoclasm is a good start. But only that. Do you want to defragment your industry? Click "yes" to continue.

(Photo by Asa Mathat/AllThingsD.com)