Rupert Goodwins' IDF Diary

Wednesday 8/9/2004Things are looking up. I try the 'Japanese Breakfast' in the hotel, which turns out to be a sizable chunk of salmon and enough sticky rice to give a man stamina for the most buzzword-enabled keynote Intel can contrive.

Wednesday 8/9/2004
Things are looking up. I try the 'Japanese Breakfast' in the hotel, which turns out to be a sizable chunk of salmon and enough sticky rice to give a man stamina for the most buzzword-enabled keynote Intel can contrive. Mike Magee of The Inquirer reports he's seen AMD's stretch limo -- which has been circling the convention centre ready to pick off curious journalists and give them an in-flight briefing -- moved on by the SFPD at the request of a rankled Intel executive. The police presence has replaced the rather onerous security measures of previous IDFs, where we had to walk through scanners and have our bags gone through by people in gloves, and in keeping with the city's laid-back attitude it normally comprises a couple of chaps and chapesses who spend most of their time cracking jokes and posing for the occasional photograph. It's only slightly alarming for us Brits that the plod have sidearms, although it does let us report accurately that AMD has been seen off by an armed response force.

The keynote today is a peculiar effort, concentrating on things like the digital office and the digital home. Now, I'm all in favour of digital offices -- in fact, I seem to have been working in such places since I was 18 -- but what's the alternative? Analogue? Take a memo, Ms Stevens, in longhand? There's an edgy, paranoid video where various people have their careers ruined by viruses, hackers, incomprehensible software and general systems failures. "Drowning in data but starving for knowledge" seems to be the theme: the sticky rice sits heavily in my stomach. Ah, but Intel has the solution. A quarter of a trillion dollars a year are spent on managing computer systems -- so why not take some of that money and spend it on... Intel? No, of course not. Automated, self-diagnosing and self-healing systems are the answer. There's a short demonstration of the digital office where three people videoconference about an air conditioning vent being in the wrong place, but it's not as exciting as it sounds.

Then it's on to Intel's one true shining success of late, mobile computing. Anand Chandrasekhar, head of such things, bounces onto the stage and predicts even greater things to come. Last time, he had a shaved head -- he'd promised to cut everything off if his division hit target, he said at the time -- but he's handsomely hairy this time. In fact, the new spirit of realism seems to have completely removed the Intel management's taste of outre hair dos, which is not progress. The bloke in charge of enterprise plaftorms, Abhi Talwalkar, does sport a shaved bonce but it would be bad taste to ask him if that was because he'd blown past his targets on Itanium sales. So I don't. Anyway, you can guess the idea behind wireless -- access everywhere to do anything.

As we leave the keynote, we notice a couple of people in black with backpacks. They're handing out tickets: large masts rise from the backpacks from which hang LCD screens a foot or so above the hapless publicists. I make a joke about overhead projectors, which goes down as well as you might expect. The tickets are advertising an "Event Premiere" called Under The Hood and with some sort of car theme going on. We don't know what this might be, about so we pop along.

It's a hall with benches and various people standing behind them. "What's this then?" we ask. "We can't tell you" is the answer. "You'll have to watch the briefing." After a while, we still can't work it out -- it's some sort of marketing idea, but you'd have to be another marketeer to understand. We make our excuses and leave, but not before some of our number have spotted that they could win a PDA if they take part in a Tech Trivia Challenge.

Of course, they try and of course, they are trounced by the real geeks in the room. However, a quick look at the rules reveals nothing about performance-enhancing substances: Next time the quiz kicks off, our heros are there but one of them has a Web-enabled phone in hand. This time the questions are very easy, especially to star team member Google, and the lads win. They get their prises awarded with a degree of gracelessness. "We'll have to change the rules next time," sniffs an organiser. "But we've seen the keynotes. We're the digital homeboys, we are," says one of the miscreants.