A domestic crisis keeps me at home this evening, and so I have to miss the launch of Microsoft Office 2003. Which proves to be a mistake: reports filter back that strange forces have been at work behind the scenes.
The format of the affair is anything but strange – this is standard info-lite entertainment for suits, with fake interviews, happy partners and pallid marketing spiel proclaimed from the stage. Most of the assembled hacks are there to get the software and meet their pals, having long since learned that this is not the sort of event from which you get anything resembling a story. Attendance is done in the world-weary spirit of seeing a school play, and more than one journalist is sinking into presentation catatonia when their more alert companions surprise them with stifled laughter.
A couple of examples. We know that Office is great for supply chain management, office automation, running a company, blah-di-blah-di-yada. And Microsoft is well within its normal range of behaviour in concocting a fake supermarket chain to make sure that even the dullest scribbler gets the point. But why name the company after the nation's favourite ex-drug dealer and dope smoker, Howard Marks?
It is true that the man got where he is today – not to mention Term Haute Penitentiary, Indiana – by innovative supply chain management, and that when Microsoft said it helped deliver Howard Marks' biscuits it could easily be talking about the arrival of sufficient chocolate Hob-Nobs to fend off the man's munchies. As for provisioning Howard Marks' raw materials, it's good to know that Office is sufficiently flexible to cope with even the most non-standard of enterprises.
And was it really a good idea to have some hapless woman stand up on stage and say that she hates waking up in the morning to find her box stuffed with spam?