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Obama’s First Major Political Controversy: Zune or iPod

A couple of days ago, Philadelphia City Paper inadvertently ignited the first big (tongue in cheek) Obama presidential controversy when it reported that Obama, who had evidently said he used an iPod, was seen using a Zune when he exercised. The formal position, evidently, had been that Obama was an iPod man, and that Apple was a big contributor to his campaign. Later, a supposed Obama spokesman reported to the Wall Street Journal that the Philadelphia reporter was mistaken, and that Obama is, in fact, an iPod user.

The Philadelphia reporter then reiterated that he did in fact see a Zune, but speculated that it may have belonged to a Secret Service Agent, or one of Obama’s children. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t picture using someone else’s tunes, particularly from a child’s or bodyguard’s MP3 player, while I exercise. But it is interesting that no one apparently asked Obama which system he used, and, well, Microsoft did also contribute a significant amount to his re-election campaign.

Apparently this was spreading in forums, and The Motley Fool started asking whether Obama, along with his other responsibilities, would be able to save the Zune. Somehow I doubt “saving the Zune” is particularly high on his list of things to do. However, search on Obama and Zune, you’ll see words like Zunegate used in forum after forum as this story captured people’s imaginations. The question of Obama’s MP3 loyalties remained largely unanswered, until the WSJ reported that he had both. Goodness, he has bridged the Microsoft/Apple gap and truly reached across the aisle – in fact he may even run Windows on his Mac!

The Tech President

I really don’t care whether he uses a Zune or an iPod, or whether he runs Windows or OS X. I do care a lot that he uses technology aggressively, and let me explain why. Obama is the first U.S. President that seems to actually use technology that way. The U.S. is a country which has led the world in technology in the past, but has watched that lead slowly erode, at least partially, because administration after administration didn’t give crap about it outside of defense. And even in defense, past administrations were largely funding weapons systems and related technology that was decades out of date with regard to what was actually needed.

As a nation, we have a serious economic problem, and a number of us believe that one of the likely ways out is to eliminate much of the inefficiency that has built up in the nation and government, and use technology to do things vastly more efficiently. We expect that the waste from our inability to use current technology, or to use technology efficiently, is creating a significant drag on the nation, and that correcting this could use the nation’s tech strengths to more effectively address its financial weaknesses. Before Obama, it appeared that technology might help other parts of the world first.

Things that are now possible include electronic voting, webcast town meetings, telepresence events, more meetings with your elected representatives, and the very real possibility that more of those representatives will be forced to focus more of their time on our needs rather than their own personal perks. He has even promised to give us our first CTO and I, among others, have been wondering who that will be. That kind of focus could bring the nation into the 21st century, and actually make promised programs like universal healthcare much more affordable.

In the end, this truly could be the beginning of building a foundation for a new golden age. And having something to look forward to is one of the most important aspects of any recovery. If we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but be sure it isn’t a train; anticipating the future can build a sense of optimism. And increasingly, it appears that the future will be bright and vastly better partially because we finally have a tech-aware President-elect.

Wrapping Up

In the end, I think that it is simply great that our new President elect uses an MP3 player, and is technically aware. This further supports the belief that he is vastly more tech-savvy than his predecessors. For a country that still has a technological advantage, and wants to keep it, this is a huge indicator that we may be able to both keep that advantage and eventually flourish again because of it. And that is a reason to continue to hope for a more positive future. You have to admit, it is kind of nice to wonder, for once, about something as simple as an MP3 player rather than the existence of a WMD. February can’t come soon enough.

Rob Enderle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rob is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. Before…
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