At first I thought it was a joke: "Speaking at the TED Conference today in Long Beach, Calif., Brin told the audience that smartphones are "emasculating." "You're standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass," he said." Perhaps I didn't believe it was true because I first encountered it in the form of a BoingBoing parody for "Mandroid: Google's remasculating new operating system." Another one of those moments when reality and parody are just soooooo close.
The Ted talk won't be available for while so I don't know if he said this with any hint of humor. (I rather hope so, but I fear not.) The talk was about the Google Glass product, which he was demonstrating and promoting. But even if he meant the statement as something of a joke, there are things that need to be said about the not-so-sub text.
1. Using "emasculating" to deride a competitor's product when neither product has anything to do with gender is just a cheap shot. It's like Coke saying that Pepsi is "emasculating."
2. The ongoing attempt to raise the testosterone levels of electronic equipment has gotten out of hand. Yet, unfortunately, products must make an appeal to identity in order to sell. Apple pushes an identity of design and sophistication that was once considered "un-manly" by early Mac reviewers. Brin's remark, albeit nonsensical, pushes back against Apple's more gender-neutral image.
3. It makes little sense to eliminate women from your market, and promoting a product as a kind of "technology viagra" is not going to win over female consumers. Brin's remark shows that he's more concerned with promoting a masculine image that he is comfortable with than with following good marketing practice.
Wikipedia Women in Computing
Gender codes: why women are leaving computing edited by Thomas Misa
How to market to women, by Carol Nelson (1994, so a little out of date, but still useful)