Guy Kewney's Weekend Diary

MondayDeadlines, deadlines. I ought to be in Paris, listening to Bill Gates tell the IDC audience that "we don't always get it right, but we keep trying". Instead, I'm writing about it in London.

Apparently, he's launching a new version of Windows; Windows CE. Nobody can tell me what CE stands for. His PR company has taken a dozen journalists (without deadlines) to Paris for the announcement, but they apparently haven't heard of it. I inform them that it's a version of Windows for PDAs. The nice PR lady wants to know what a PDA is.

Larry Ellison, head of Oracle, is also in Paris. He pours eloquent scorn on those who say that the Network Computer won't catch on, because it has no local storage. "People don't give a damn where their data is, as long as it's on the screen when they look," he says. "Do you keep all your cash in a mattress, or in a bank?"

An irate IBM RS/6000 customer wants to know who's going to pay for his upgrade. "We have a system spec'ed to support 16 users. Now the software supplier has announced that it's upgrading the software. We don't get a choice, because they aren't supporting our version any more. But after they install it, it turns out that we need twice the memory and twice the disk." Said software supplier offers to supply this "at cost" -- which says something interesting about RS/6000 costs, I guess, since 32 meg of RAM and a gigabyte of disk cost around £3,000. Hmm.

Tuesday

Quite by coincidence, the same week that Forrester Research proclaims that NetWare is a "legacy" system for networks and that Novell is no longer a strategic supplier, Novell's new chief executive, Joe "Jimbo" Marengi arrives in town. At breakfast, I wave the Forrester report gently over his coffee cup. "Garbage," he says politely.

Well, he does have a point. The report says that it's about time Novell supported TCP/IP. I think Novell's been one of the biggest suppliers of TCP/IP in the world for some years.

A call to Boundless Technologies: "You do realise that the question I asked you last week forms part of a story which goes to press TODAY?," I ask patiently. "What question was that?," they reply. "I wanted to know whether your Windows multi-user mainframe system runs Notes," I thunder sweetly. "Oh. We'll find out."

That's what they said last week.

Phone call from the RS/6000 customer. "You were right! They're upgrading our system at their expense!". Mind you, my friend's triumph may be short-lived; his maintenance contract permits this software company to increase the service charges "without previous notice" at any time. Direct Debit, anyone?

Wednesday

The game of the century, Meridian, the first to run only on the Web! It's much, much better than MUD. So it's an early start because I'm going to get an exclusive demo. OK, MUD. Well, it was the name of the Multi-User Dungeon, a text-only adventure. "This is much better," says the enthusiastic flak. "It's a first-person viewpoint in three dimensions. We'll show it to you."

In order to see it, I need to provide a multimedia PC on the Web. I also have to find a meeting room big enough for six. At 10.30, five minutes before the software-bearing guru arrives, I finally get the LAN connection working and reboot. That's the point where the guru phones from his car to say that he's stuck in traffic.

By the time the former hardware pioneer 3DO company has announced its transformation into software studio company, we have the CD in the drive. Install: it makes contact with the home site, which does a quick check. "Your software is out of date; we'll upgrade it," it promises. Half an hour later, we try to set up the 3DO guru's laptop instead, but his modem won't work.

It's not my day, actually; I find all my Lotus Notes windows are invisible. "We can answer a one-off question if you give us your credit card number," says the "help" desk guy. Charge: £125 per question. For posting a bug report? No, thanks.

We leave the game hopelessly trying and retrying to download the upgrade.

Thursday

Sage arrives to talk about accountancy software. No! Don't click! Dammit, it was interesting. It seems that they're about to expand into the Internet. Why do you want accounting software on the Internet? They have lots of marketing jargon to explain it. Dutifully, it all gets written down. Makes no sense. Nice people, though.

Back at the office, a press conference invite: J D Edwards Corporation, provider of mainframe-based accounting package OneWorld; "I can't come," I tell them, "because I'm in Japan next week, but can you tell me a bit about it all?"

Apparently this is an AS/400 (mainframe) package, now coming down-scale to the Windows 95 environment. I hear a penny dropping. Nothing to do with Sage, no, not at all? Coincidence? Competition? Bland innocence is all I can detect from Sage's Newcastle HQ.

The game is still trying to download from the ftp site.

Friday

The 3DO guru rings. "Sorry about yesterday. Did you get it working yet?" Actually, courtesy of remote teleworking, I sort of have. I dialled into my desktop using Laplink for Windows 95, and then set off an Internet download from the teleport.com ftp site. And a couple of hours later, all the new stuff arrived. And now? "I'll pop by, later."

So I still can't tell you a damn thing about 3DO's latest incarnation. And next week' it's off to Fujitsu in Tokyo, and I bet you anything you like I can't log on to the Internet from Tokyo.

Meanwhile it turns out Scott McNealy, head of Sun Microsystems, is in town. We have a long chat, him in his limo (heading to the airport) and me at my desk. Local data storage is not necessary, he says. "Do you keep your cash in the mattress?"

I haven't the heart to tell him I've heard that one.

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