If the TV news business has a guiding patriarch, it’s Walter Cronkite. If the consumer technology business has one, it’s Walter Mossberg. Wired Magazine’s May issue has an illuminating profile on Mossberg, whose Personal Technology column in the Wall Street Journal is without doubt the most influential and widely-read source of commentary on new technology products. No other technology journalist has Mossberg’s clout or his power to influence technology design itself; the Wired piece, for example, relates episodes like Microsoft’s decision to drop Smart Tags (a feature of Windows XP that would have allowed Microsoft to insert links to its own websites or sponsors’ sites into any other Web page) after Mossberg attacked it as an abuse of power.
Like many people, I’d think twice about buying any product that Mossberg panned. He’s gained this kind of sway through a combination of approachable writing, brutal honesty, and unquestioned objectivity – all characteristics I have to admire deeply as a fellow technology writer.