Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 14/02/2005In France for 3GSM, the mobile phone industry bash. It's not clear exactly what bit of France I'm in, as Cannes -- the venue -- is full.

Monday 14/02/2005

In France for 3GSM, the mobile phone industry bash. It's not clear exactly what bit of France I'm in, as Cannes -- the venue -- is full. So there was a lot of shuttling last night around in minibuses and taxis between Marseilles, Nice, Cannes and the hotel in Beaulieu Sur Mer. Which would have been a charming tour of the scenic Cote d'Azur, had it not been dark: similarly, the Belle Epoque hotel would have been fantastic -- heated open-air swimming pool, tasteful gardens, effortlessly sumptuous rooms -- had it not been more than an hour away from the conference and thus effectively just a distant room with a TV and a bed.

The press room was a tent on the beach, designed along the time-honoured lines by working out how many power points, seats and network connections will be needed for the attending journos and dividing by two. The result was similar to a full multistorey car park: anxious hacks cruising the aisles desperately seeking someone about to depart. The click of a closing laptop lid was a drop of blood in a lake of piranhas, and many took to bolting their notebooks to the desks before wandering off for half an hour. One rather fierce woman was in charge of four -- I, looking for a space, wandered over and said "Er, I wonder if..." I got no further. "We're REUTERS!" she said, in capital letters yet. "We NEED these for our WORK". "But..." "REUTERS!". "Writer!" I said. But she wasn't having it.

Yet the major downside of the tent was the positioning. It is hard to sit through a long and Powerpointy briefing about EMEA ARPUs when the Med is sparkling like a TV advert twenty yards away. How we suffer.

The first day of the show was a zoo -- imagine 30,000 phone industry people packed into a small French seaside town, all of them wandering around staring into their phones and bumping into passing Citroens. In the middle of all this, the plain people of Cannes -- elderly ladies in expensive scarves carrying tiny, neurotic dogs and large numbers of disaffected youths -- try to go about their normal business.

At least one of the above group made the best of it. A friend saw a very stylish mugging: a straw-thin teenager in a hoodie with a bandana over his face was wandering through the rampaging hoards of overfed suits, checking out their phones. Then he pounced -- his victim, a rather shiny Korean gentleman texting away on a very small, very colourful phone. The lad just rushed past him, grabbed the phone and was gone, leaving our executive still thumbing the empty air. Very impressive.

There was also some nonsense on a yacht with a three-piece Korean girl group who played a sort of Hooked On Classics medley amid pints of gin and tonic, but I won't bore you with all that. It was also amusing to wander pass the huge Nokia venue -- another huge tent on the beach -- while a Motorola-sponsored boat projected giant videos onto water sprays just in front of it. Petty childishness is the mother of invention, I always say.