Today, Intel is launching its amazing Pentium II. The plan is to go to lunch with one of its biggest customers, John Shepheard at Gateway, and get briefed. Then off to the big showbiz feature.
Life never works out that way, does it? A mid-morning snack turns out to be infected, and the afternoon sees me running away home with the potions and groans. Somehow, though, I suspect that the Pentium launch will not be that wonderful...
The forebodings for yesterday's Big Hype of the Klamath (Pentium II) chip turn out to be spot on. The routine is established, like an occult ritual: Intel says it has introduced a new evolutionary stage in computing, a dozen or so customers from Dan to IBM stand up and say "We are launching PCs based on it" from a script written by Intel, and everybody takes the press pack away.
And it's all nonsense.
For a start, there's no detectable advantage that I can see - in performance terms - to buying a Klamath-based PC, over a Pentium MMX machine. The most obvious drawback to Klamath, observes one OEM customer angrily over the phone is: "We don't have any chips, Guy!"
A ring round the distributors suggests that not only will this continue to be the case for some weeks, but that corporate buyers are utterly indifferent. Which probably explains it: these guys don't make decisions overnight. You have to get their circulation warmed up slowly, over a six month period; at the end of that, they'll consent to evaluate a sample.
A call to a large corporate buyer. "No, we're not buying Klamath. There's no performance advantage until Intel launches the 300 MHz version, which won't be till September at the earliest. We may evaluate one of those."
At this point, the phone gets interrupted by a call from someone at Dell. Like the other OEM customer, my contact refuses to release his name into the public domain, but he's cross, all right: "We can't launch any servers, because the server motherboard isn't ready!" Apparently a chipset promised by Intel is incomplete.
I'm almost glad I went home early.
A rather disappointed customer of Microsoft Money bends my ear. It seems he had a visit from the VAT man. On opening up his files, he finds that there are no VAT entries for the last two years.
I don't know if you are VAT rated; I was, once. A visit from HM Customers and Excise (who do VAT inspections) is utterly terrifying. They have a warrant, effectively, to do what they like: they can seize any and all your documents, computers, software and records of any type, and they can take them away without argument, need for justification, or appeal. "Oh, it just disappeared, did it?" from the mouth of a sceptical VATman is just not funny.
So how did this happen?
It seems that version 3.0 of Money did VAT. But it wasn't very good, and people wanted improvements. Version 4.0 came out, and (my source inside Microsoft tells me) without these improvements; so they decided to drop it. Last October version 5.0 came out. It had the new, improved VAT section. Nobody inside Microsoft thought to see if it would correctly update version 3.0.
It didn't; it threw it all away. "Not to worry, we have a solution," says Microsoft. "Re-enter the data. You don't have to enter the whole thing; just the amount. So where it says "Mr Smith, four pairs of shoes, £55.60" you only have to re-enter the £55.60."
Funny, but my reader doesn't seem to think this is a solution. The fact that he has 2,000 transactions to re-key appears to daunt him. He appears to think he has a business to run, and that 2,000 transactions is going to occupy his attention, to the detriment of the work he has to do. Microsoft tells me that the "impact" of this decision is "very small" and they decided not to recall the software for the purpose of sticking on a warning note, because it would be "a logistical nightmare."
I can see how this will please our user, to know he's saved Microsoft from a logistical nightmare. So I ask: why not tell resellers to warn customers? "Oh, resellers. They have such a lot to do, you know? We decided they'd be most unlikely to do anything with the information."
Mad scramble to finish everything before flying to visit IBM in Somers, New York. The modem doesn't dial. The Motorola Cellect 3 is wonderful over GSM, but its landline cable terminates in a UK plug. I don't have a UK to US plug. I have a US to UK plug, so I have to find another modem which ends in a US plug. The Gold Card Global? It works! Off to the airport for the flight.
"British Airways regrets... lack of serviceable aircraft ... go slow in catering..."
Arrive in NY about 1.30 am (local time). Don't call me, I'll bite your head off.