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Brummell Blog: Paul Allen

In an extremely rare interview Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, talks about the death of the PC and the book, and the battle for good and evil in the digital age…

Paul Allen, paulallen.comGoogle is ‘evil’

‘I chuckle when I see people pushing the boundaries of what they could do to monetise things all the time and what they can do to capture things, with initiatives like Street View – and then say they’re not evil, like Google. Well, you’re not evil if your default is not to push the boundaries. If your default is to push the boundaries, to just go for it and then see if you get pushed back, don’t say you're not evil because it’s ridiculous.’

Apple is the best

‘Steve Jobs deserves fantastic credit for what he’s been able to do with the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. That’s an amazing string of success over these last years that took a lot of companies by surprise. Microsoft was the flagship company in technology. But everybody takes their hats off to Steve, he has the leadership position now.’

Microsoft is down but not out

‘Microsoft is haunted by a decade or more of missed opportunities. Apple is the dominant purveyor of cool devices of the future. Google has blown past Microsoft in search and in Internet-based computing. Facebook is king in social networking. But technological shifts come in waves. It’s a very long horse race, so there’s always an opportunity to come back.’

The Death of the PC

‘Here’s what the death knell for the personal computer will sound like: “Mainly, I use my phone/tablet. But I still use my PC to write long emails and documents.” Most people aren’t there yet but that’s where we’re headed.’

Big Brother

‘There’s a tension between companies’ desire to monetise as much information as they can extract about you and people’s desire for privacy. People are asking for privacy for certain things and then sometimes governments have to step in. Take Google Street View. If you have a picture of yourself drinking a beer in front of your house online, some people, some countries won’t get excited about that. But as time goes on, companies are going to become more sensitive to people’s desire to keep certain things private and share them only with a select group of people. You have to realise when you sign up to these services that the company’s goal is to monetise whatever information they  can get from you. No doubt about it.’

Books, newspapers and magazine are dead

‘The digital age has truly arrived. Things printed on paper are becoming obsolete. I finally became a convert and now read e-books. I kind of hung in there for a while but the convenience and the fact you can have a thousand books on these devices is really amazing. The harbinger of these things is always kids. If you look what the’re doing, they’re reading things online. They don’t need physical books. My parents were both librarians at different points in their lives, so I grew up around books. I have a lot of nostalgia for them. But pretty soon almost everything, if it isn’t already online, gets online.’

Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft by Paul Allen is out now,