Vodafone is launching its 3G consumer phones today -- press event in the morning, big party in the evening as well as events across twelve European countries and Japan. This takes some organising, so it's a measure of the company's fearlessness that the London party venue is called The Brewery.
Fortunately for Team ZD, the fates are kind to Voda and the fizz never falters - well, not until the end, and even then an imperious wave is enough to send the flunkies scampering back to find more. There's a bit of a cabaret hosted by Jonathan Ross -- I remember him treading the boards for the Windows 95 launch with the same haircut and quite possibly the same jacket -- together with sparkling stars of showbiz and, er, showbiz.
But we're not here to sink ignobly beneath a sea of champagne and gawp at people with microphones. We're here to sink ignobly beneath a sea of champagne and gawp at people with mobile phones. The one on display -- in some numbers -- is the Sony Ericsson V800, which is really rather fab. We corner a couple of strolling demo elves and press their phones into service to make a videophone call between myself and editor Matt Loney: slightly juddery, disjointed and with a mildly feverish tinge to the cheeks, but the phone copes perfectly.
Scattered around the edges of the venue are various zones showing off the phone's other marvellous tricks -- music, games, streamed video services and what have you. There are plenty of phones available to play with -- and only a token Voda presence to keep an eye on us -- but the things are tethered to heavy tables by steel guitar strings. They're taking no chances with drunken kleptomania, an affliction familiar to anyone who's been to such events. The trouble with geeks is that they will insist on seeing such things as a challenge, and Team ZD is geek heavy.
So we form ourselves into a well-oiled, effective and focused team (one of those is true, at least). The more voluble and demonstrative members form a protective cordon around one of the table, and engage the suits, PRs and demo elves in loud and distracting conversation. Meanwhile and hidden from view, the chap with the best set of safecracking fingers gets to work on the crimped cable.
It takes around five minutes, and we have our liberated phone. There is some lively discussion about what to do with it -- it would be simple just to trouser the device and waltz into the night, and seeing as Voda isn't handing out any units tonight, the temptation is strong. But a sense of duty, conscience and the nagging knowledge that phones can be located in seconds over the network keep our lads from "taking with intent to permanently deprive", in that annoying phrase so beloved of the prosecution.
No, instead a much loved and well respected senior journalist is located and the front men in the team distract him while the phone is quietly slipped into his bag. It's not that we actually want his highly paid, high profile national newspaper and broadcasting slots, but it would be a shame to let them lapse while he's busy analysing the ceiling in Pentonville.