News Schmooze: Labour surges to victory on text messages

The Conservatives spammed, Microsoft infiltrated your brain and Intel practiced karaoke...

It's a landslide!! A landslide, that is, of email from the Conservatives. In a futile attempt to stem Labour's massive lead in the polls ahead of Thursday's general election, the Tories apparently engaged in a bit of email marketing, as a way of reaching the nation's "yoofs". No wonder a new poll gave more kudos to Labour's tech agenda.

Labour isn't getting a free ride, though. The same poll showed that people don't believe much in Labour's high-tech prowess either, and a new report makes out that the government's online initiatives aren't all they're cracked up to be. Labour may be making progress with its pseudo-meaningless e-government targets, but what about that nasty Regulation of Investigatory Powers act, or Britain's flagging broadband fortunes? As if to underscore that last point, yet another broadband provider, Iomart, cut most of its consumer ADSL services this week.

Microsoft has come up for fresh criticism after it launched Office XP and everybody began to realise that those little notes that now pop up everywhere -- SmartTags as they're called -- could be Bill Gates' latest means to establish global hegemony. The tags can take you to related (Microsoft-owned) services on the Web, which could effectively mean Travelocity, for example, could wind up having links to Microsoft Expedia if you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer -- which most people do these days.

The new Microsoft Instant Messenger is angling to wipe out its competitors just as IE has pummelled Netscape Communicator into the second tier. At the same time, Windows XP is accused of making life easy for hackers. Well, like the guy said, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

The thing is, while Microsoft may not dominate the Internet the way it does the desktop, it's definitely getting there: half of the time Americans spend online is controlled by just four companies, including Microsoft. And there may be a whole new market ready for the taking -- the Vatican has now ruled out online confessions.

The PC market is going to shrink this year, but computer chip companies are looking on the bright side. Intel even started off its executive presentations in Europe this week with a high-spirited video remake of the song Bohemian Rhapsody, with lyrics about the collapse of the Internet bubble. What Intel was trying to get across in the talk was that technology will march on, bigger and better than ever before -- even if no one is buying it.

Intel's Paul Otellini even made out that people will soon replace their TVs and stereos and things with various peripherals attached to an omnipotent x86 box -- well, it'd be nice for them, wouldn't it? You know you're living in glum economic times when it's reassuring to hear a company's prospects haven't got any worse over the last couple of months, which is basically what Intel told analysts the other day.

AMD brought out some more powerful chips and IBM -- which is being sued by gypsies -- appealed to those looking to stretch their resources a little farther with a process for "stretching" silicon to make computers run faster. Well, if the boffins say so...

Text messaging ain't what it used to be, says mobile software company Logica -- a mere 50 billion were sent in the first three months of the year, as growth has slowed a bit. Still, not bad at all. Which explains the real reason Labour won: instead of campaigning via email, they went for the real yoof market and sent loads of text messages...

The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.