Surprisingly chipper today, due entirely to complete incompetence last night in getting drinks at a party. This is shocking incompetence on my part, and in no way reflects on the fine efforts of Intel in throwing the party in question, to celebrate 25 years of the IBM PC. The company took over large parts of the Design Museum at Butlers Wharf: drinks and food downstairs, Formula 1 cars on one level and old computers at the top. No food and drinks allowed near the exhibits, y'see, and that's where I was most of the time.
High marks to Intel in having some non-Intel computers on show — Commodore PET, BBC Micro, Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum — but not for missing out the Apple II, which started it all off, nor for ignoring the UK's reasonably successful PCs such as Apricot and Amstrad. Some naughty person programmed the ZX81 to scroll "ZILOG RULEZ" across its screen, and then watched with considerable amusement as senior Intel staff struggled and failed to work out the Sinclair BASIC single-key keyword entry system in order to delete this. It was also fun to watch numerous old hacks fall on the computers of their youth with such heart-rending sighs that I feared that they'd end up on the Sex Offenders Register.
The party wasn't just for that, though. It was also there to promote the launch of a swathe of VPro computers, carrying the flag of Intel's new business platform into battle for the first time. A bunch of the usual suspects were showing off hardware and hyming the praises of vPro's manageability, virtualisation and, er, whatever else it is that vPro does. You know. Graphics and stuff.
Worryingly for Intel, there are signs that the vPro message hasn't quite got through. Some of the partners seem a little underbriefed (Journo: "So, how does this work?" Partner: "The benefits are..." Journo: "I saw the Powerpoints too. But how does it work?" Partner (flustered): "The benefits are..." Journo: "HOW DOES IT WORK?" Partner: "Errr... aaaah... eeer... the benefits... aaah") and I still didn't get an answer to the question I've been asking since the last Intel Developer Forum — can you write open source software that uses the Intel AMT management system?
The most interesting part, though, was afterwards. Having failed to get a drink at the party — again, through no fault of Intel's — two of the crustier hacks and myself retired to the Anchor Tap pub for a couple of pints before hometime. As we left, we brushed past a couple of other partygoers: Intel had also invited hundreds of "IT Decision Makers", some of whom had also sniffed out the Tap. One of them stopped me as I went past and fixed me with an unsteady eye.
"You don't believe any of that stuff, do you?" he said.
"What stuff?" I replied.
"All that Intel guff. It's not going to make the computers go any faster, is it?"
"No, I don't believe it is," I said.
"vPro. Doesn't mean a thing. Just same old stuff in a different box. Now, if they bothered to make the network go better, that'd be something good. That's what's holding everything up."
And so on, at some length, quite possibly for long after I'd gone.
It seems that after decades of teaching the customer that faster equals better, there's a lot of inertia to overcome in getting them to swallow anything else (apart from free cava and canapes). It's going to take a lot of work to change that thinking.