The BT story rattles around like prune stones in an empty beer can. You can get too close to a story, and have to keep taking a check on what's really happening, what it really means. There are so many things to think about - what BT's licence allows and forbids it to do, what the data protection side of things is, what compromises fair trading and what's just hard business -- and it's not helped by BT itself getting rather sullen over the whole affair.
Two things becomes increasingly clear: if you're an ISP with no commercial telco connections, you're toast. And if you thought the Internet was a big story this year -- wait until 1999. Things are just getting going...
Rumours circulate that Intel is about to buy 3Com -- am I really going to be using an Intel Pilot in the future? The one with a Motorola processor in it? -- and that the company's also going to be buying into Tut's home networking technology. That'd be good. You'd buy a PC with a telephone cable that'd just plug into the wall, and it would do ADSL access to the Net and be a router onto your own home LAN. No setting up, no wiring - it'd use the telephone extensions you've already got -- and suddenly everything can talk to everything else at megabit speeds with a gateway though to the Web. And it would cost maybe a hundred pounds extra.
As always with technology, you hang around for ages knowing that there's a load of potential but not quite seeing how anyone's going to do it -- and then it all happens quicker than anyone could reasonably expect. Hurry up and wait, as they say in the Army...
Ay Carimba! The sudden realisation hits me: I'm supposed to be taking Goodwins Junior down to Plymouth this weekend to stay with The Vicar. And I still haven't replaced the wheels on my Skoda.
A frantic check on the Railtrack website reveals my permanent way options, plus a telephone number for Great Weastern telesales. This is quite possibly the only way to buy an Intercity ticket these days; I tried last week to get one at Liverpool Street, but of the ten or so windows only five were open and none would sell me a ticket for anything other than that day.
There then followed a charming danse a cyber, where the chap on the blower and myself delicately click our way through our respective computer systems -- I checking times, he checking fares. His system was slower than mine (tee hee). Of course, none of this can quench the underlying silliness of the railway system de nos jours and if there was a single integrated fares and timetabling system available via the Web I could have completed the task in a quarter of the time.
Nevertheless, telesales is immensely enriched if both ends of the conversation have Net access.
Off to see Motorola, ostensibly in a meeting room at the Hampshire Hotel, Leicester Square. I'm the last journo of the day, though, so I find the Moto posse gravitating thirstily towards the bar. Would I join them? Delighted -- although the hotel fails to stock anything but fizzy American beer and I end up with a coke. Mens sane in corporate hospitality, I guess.
Motorola has been having a mixed time of it lately. One of America's oldest new technology companies, it started off making radios for cars in the 30s. Since then, a combination of consumer, military and industrial products has seen it do well, and it was perfectly positioned to profit from cellphones when they first came along. It dabbled in datacomms and still makes some fine semiconductors... but of late, it's been struggling. Late into digital phones and never comfortable with computers, it turned into a sprawling empire of mutually incomprehending divisions and other companies have been making hay at its expense.
All over, says Motorola. A big reorganisation and strategic acquisitions leave it ready to go to war: its cellphone people are talking to its datacomm people, cooperating instead of coldshouldering each other, and with key technologies such as Java, Starfish's data synchronisation stuff and good handwriting recognition it's going to be a new golden age.
The proof of the pudding is in the products -- and on that, we must only wait and see. Good luck!
Dental dismay and exploding monitors render the day bleak and throbbing. You don't want to know, and I don't intend to tell you. Oh, and there's development on the BT front -- it's up to more than we ever imagined. See you next week...