Chapter 46. Sparkbuy’s Story

Deals are like toddlers. Their natural inclination is to fall apart. Only careful tending, deliberate attention (or strategic inattention), and a large measure of luck can prevent a meltdown. And even then it happens more often than not.

Google Discovers Sparkbuy

I hate talking to people on airplanes.

I’m not a natural misanthrope. Under normal circumstances I enjoy talking to people. I love social events with friends. I don’t care for the forced mixing of “networking events,” but I have become accustomed to them. But airplanes... all I want to do is sink down in a seat and thumb some dead trees; maybe pay too much for WiFi and plunk my way toward inbox zero. I never talk to people on planes.

With two exceptions.

First, if I’m flying to and from the Valley. Second, if I catch a lucky upgrade to first class.

So it was with a heavy heart that I realized, as I slouched into the oversized leatheresque chair in Seat 7F in the first-class cabin of Alaska Air Flight 327 nonstop from San Jose to Seattle-Tacoma, that I had a conversation ahead of me.

My seatmate saved me the trouble of making the first move. I pulled out my phone and went through the press-and-hold ritual to set it in airplane mode, then shut it down.

“Is that a Nexus One?” he asked.

It was indeed a Nexus One, a svelte and sturdy phone that marked Google’s first experiment with radical carrier disintermediation. It was a brave experiment, but they didn’t sell a lot of phones.

“Yeah, have you ...

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