Interview: We grill gadget-mad Peter Jones on how he sees the tech worWe had a brief chat with Den dragon, entrepreneur, gadget fan and all-round business god Peter Jones about the world of tech according to him. Here’s what we found out.
Which one gadget could you not live without?
“Clearly everybody accepts that you can’t live without the mobile phone, but it if isn’t that, it’s got to be the BT broadband dongle. I’m sorry to say that it’s very much business related for me, even when I’m holiday. I always take about three different dongles and an extra notebook and mobile phones when I go away just in case anything happens. I have to be connected. If you took my dongle away I’d probably send someone after you.”
You’re a prolific twitterer aren’t you?
“No I’ve actually never been on twitter. It’s interesting though because people keep pretending to be me. I had a situation where someone was trying to be me and it got quite freaky because they even knew my next appointments. We do use it though for our National Enterprising Academy and BT events though. We use it to let people know what’s coming up.”
What’s your favourite Dragon’s Den or American Inventor gadget?
“It’s a gadget from Dragon’s Den called ‘trueCall’. It links into the you phone system and filters out useless phone calls.”
And your least favourite?
“Layline Beds. It’s basically a sheet with a stitched line down the middle to tell husband and wife that ‘this is my space and this is your space’. It is ridiculous. That, or the American Inventor guy who said that spinning bicycle hub cabs will be the next craze. Only in America!”
What’s the craziest idea you’ve ever seen?
“Back on Dragon’s Den; first or second series. Knee Roller Skates. When Dads go around the house on their knees playing ‘horsey’ with kids, their knees get worn out, so this guy invented skates to wiz down the corridor without taking a punishment on your knee. I think he’s currently under close personal scrutiny and protection with people in white coats.”
Is there anything you regret not going in on?
“I don’t actually. No regrets. Even when I see some successful products coming out I don’t have regrets because I’m still lucky enough to have the most successful record of investments out of all the Dragons. My investment with Levi Roots, for example, is the most successful investment ever made on a television programme. He’s now a multi-millionaire several times over. It’ll take the other Dragons a long time and a lot of investments to catch up with that one.”
Sir Alan Sugar famously once said that the iPod will ‘be dead in a year’. Have you ever made any similarly poor judgements?
“Not yet. Alan Sugar’s a lot older than me and had a lot more time to put his foot in his mouth. I’m sure my time will come.”
Who’s the most gadget-savvy of the Dragons?
“Me, without question. You have James who was in recruitment, Deborah who was in leisure industry, Duncan who is just brainless anyway, and Theo who’s probably the nearest to me because he’s in technology as well. I started my business after school with computers though. I was always looking at taking apart and fixing them. Whenever all the gadgets come into the Den, it’s always me who sees the opportunity. Whereas Duncan will just say “I don’t understand it,” like most things in life… he doesn’t.”
Would you say Duncan is the least tech-savvy then?
“He’s the least savvy. You can cut out the word ‘tech’.”
If you could have backed or been behind one gadget what would it have been?
“MS DOS, or the original computer operating systems. The most natural answer for something that I wish I’d invented though is probably… I wish I’d invented the mobile phone, owned all the rights to the tech, and then licensed it off to other manufacturers.”
What’s your favourite for the ‘Gadget of the Year’ in the T3 Gadget Awards?
“There’s only one: the Samsung LE40B650 TV. I’ve seen it – it is unbelievable. The quality of the screen and image is second to none. All the other products there are out, and they’re ok technology but this is real cutting edge tech at the top of its game.”
iPhone or Blackberry?
“I’ve got a Macbook and a dongle – that’s good enough for me. I’ve used a blackberry before, but it’s difficult when you’re looking at such a small screen. You try and do a spreadsheet on such a small device! It’s the notebook and the dongle for me.”
Google’s now undoubtedly huge. What do think it’ll take to topple it?
“For me, it’ll be blown out of the water when virtual voice activation takes over: When you can walk into a fully centralised home that’s linked up with a computerised system, and that learns intuitively when you ask it things. I see the virtual life form killing Google. The web will be a central location device but you won’t have to use a search engine like Google. If you had a virtual life-form that runs your life and learns what you want, that’d be amazing. I think that could be less than 20 years away. The underlying technology is already there, in a way.”