Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 03/06/2004It's day two of the Dell EMEA product showcase, and outside the hotel the sun is filtering through the palm trees onto the dusty, dog-walked concrete of La Croisette. At least, I assume so: nothing filters through the partitions of the conference rooms.

Thursday 03/06/2004
It's day two of the Dell EMEA product showcase, and outside the hotel the sun is filtering through the palm trees onto the dusty, dog-walked concrete of La Croisette. At least, I assume so: nothing filters through the partitions of the conference rooms. There are those among us who haven't left the hotel since they arrived early yesterday -- the circuit of bedroom, breakfast room, briefings and bar is an hermetic circle that shields us from temptation while inculcating the maximum Dellyvision. However, after the day's round of Powerpoint, one-on-ones and demonstrations, the PRs silently melt away, the last scraps of copy are filed and we are free to breath in the salty air of the Cote d'Azur. After all, what's the point of coming all the way to the playground of the rich, famous and wrinkly and not stepping out to admire the yachts and the rollerbladers?

But even as I wander towards the Palais des Festivals, I feel curiously alone. It's not so curious: I am alone. Where are my fellow hacks? Investigations reveal they are incarcerated in the darkest, deepest part of the Dell dungeon, a room dedicated to demonstrating certain computers. "We're free!" I tell them. "Time off! For bad behaviour!" There is no response. I look closer through the gloom: they have a glazed expression and are wearing headphones. With boom mikes. Has some fiendish magic turned them into call-centre operatives? Is this how Dell plans to increase its profits from services?

No. This is a voluntary incarceration. They are locked in combat, eviscerating each other with machine guns, machetes, rifles and other attitude amplifiers in some sort of multiplayer arcade game called Far Cry, Far Call, Far Canal or some such. "Look at those graphics!" said one hip young gunslinger, pointing at a lens-flared sun atop some fractally generated plant life. "Have you seen outside?" I suggested. "It's even nicer, and that bloke from PC Format isn't hiding in the bushes with a sniper rifle."

Hopeless. I leave them to it, and wander onto the foreshore where the PRs are checking out the weather for the beach party later.

It's a very good party, diverting enough to help me forget that the 8 a.m. flight back home means I have to leave the hotel at 6 a.m.

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