Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 6/06/2005Two weeks off: where to begin?Last week’s diary was swallowed up by Dell, who distracted me by two days in Monaco showing off the products due over the next few months.

Monday 6/06/2005

Two weeks off: where to begin?

Last week’s diary was swallowed up by Dell, who distracted me by two days in Monaco showing off the products due over the next few months. Can’t talk about most of them, but don’t go expecting any massive changes in company strategy. High points? “People ask how much we spend on research and development. We leverage the research and development of the entire industry.” -- in other words, wait for everyone to expensively distill what actually works, nip in, nab that and expertly drain the margins out of the business. Ruthless, but you have to admit it works.You’d have to be bonkers to go up against the Dell machine -- and it’s reaching its tendrils into the data centre, support and maintenance, gaming and services.

Other good bits: seeing a pre-release image of King Kong from the Peter Jackson movie due out at the end of the year, two months before anything is going to be published; hearing Dell talk sense about recycling and reclaimation, even if you know the company’s fulfilling legal obligations and giving it a bit of a spin.

Bad bits: The bloke from Oracle who shouted his presentation in a small room, then prefixed every other answer “Larry says…” with the same fervour as a People’s Revolutionary Army lieutenant waving a picture of Mao. Car analogies -- endless car analogies. I know we were next to Monte Carlo, but did we really need “IT is like Formula 1 -- you need great kit and a great team behind you”, together with Powerpoint clip art? And this was the morning after the night before: I was rough enough, but lord knows how the youngsters managed. But they went clubbing and bumped into Bono, which is worth a bit of pain.

Easy bit: signing the non-disclosure agreement on a Longhorn demo. Is it breaking the NDA to say that even if I thought very hard about it, nothing I saw would be interesting enough to disclose even if I wanted to?

Hard bit: Having to give back this Latitude X1 I borrowed for the trip.

Anyway, that’s last week. This week -- in fact, today -- is supposed to be Lenovo’s special time. The company is launching its first product in the UK since the IBM deal, the first Thinkpad tablet PC. Tablet PCs are dull things, but what with the company history and the Thinkpad reputation there’s enough to give the launch a bit of a fillip. Putting the party on a Thames boat is a little dangerous -- we tend to worry that we’ll be trapped for two hours of earnest presentation before the bar opens -- but the wine is flowing by the time we board, so they get that bit right. “Before we do the speech,” said the captain, “I have to do a safety briefing”. “Coo,” said Matt Loney. “What sort of speech is this going to be, then?”

It then goes badly wrong. There is no PA, so the CEO has to struggle to be heard over the noise of engines and water. There are no curtains on the windows of the boat, so the distractions from outside are far more compelling than the series of quite shockingly bad slides that bounce off the projection screen in the middle of the deck. And when you do concentrate, the speech seems to be a recitation of the spec sheet. How many USB ports do you say it has? Outside, a dingy sailor is knocked off his boat by our bow wash: he clearly didn’t listen to the safety briefing.

And, of course, today was the day that Apple went Intel, thus edging closer to becoming a Dell competitor.The Lenovo CEO made similar noises about getting into that market. As we got back to the pier, blue flashing lights lit up the deck – the Thames River police were pulling a body out of the water. Michael Dell wastes no time in putting the frighteners on.