Tuesday 23/08/2005 — Part II
Barely had we recovered from our Google-propelled ride to the far reaches of our stomachs than Sean Maloney pitched in with the Mobility Keynote. Now, Sean is a Brit made good — he's executive vice-president and manager of Intel's Mobility group, and has steadily risen through the ranks since starting as UK manager of applications engineering in the early 80s. One result is in his accent, where Thames Valley meets Valley Girl and wins. Mostly. His vowels are the very model of mobility, while his most impressive transcontinental articulation comes with his R's, which start in Swindon and end up in Santa Clara by way of Shanghai in one dramatic swoop.
His demeanour, like the rest of the on-stage execs, is much enhanced by the brand of tight-fitting transparent boom mikes that are worn close to the left cheek. These are clearly supposed to be invisible — and at a distance, they are. But on a video close-up, or when the light is just so, they look for all the world like a Prussian cavalry officer's duelling scar. This gives the impression, especially with Maloney's close-cropped tonsure, that we are dealing with beings of ruthless determination and utter discipline.
That impression is quickly offset by Maloney's message, which although spirited and uplifting contains something of the tensions one suspects exists within Intel when one corporate strategy is made to wrap up many different approaches. "The desktop is not dying, there's just a shift to notebooks," for example, when the graph shows the perfect X shape of one product range thoroughly marmalising another: "The Hussars are not being routed, there's just a shift to Napoleon". Or "I know we don't talk about gigahertz any more, but here's our new Monahans ARM core running at 1.2GHz. We're really excited about this".
We then segue into the weirdest and most entertaining section of this or any other keynote. By way of demonstrating just how good WiMax is, Maloney has caused to exist four links in the four corners of the Earth, which are now beamed into the auditorium. Each link in turn delivers a local notable, who delivers a pithy salutation and commends Intel on the wonderfulness of WiMax, and in short order we are to be left in no doubt about the global reach of such glory.
But no. However good WiMax is, it can't emulate Maloney's R's to reach across continents — and so the majority of the link is via satellite. This creates a delay, which combines with the language difficulties and the time zones to foster an atmosphere of almost total bewilderment.