Rupert Goodwins' San Jose Diary

Tuesday, 16/09/2003The first keynote. You'll have read about it by now: it was the usual mix of corporate video, flashy graphs and demos that mostly work.

Tuesday, 16/09/2003
The first keynote. You'll have read about it by now: it was the usual mix of corporate video, flashy graphs and demos that mostly work. The first of a million mentions of Moore's Law comes 10 minutes in, and with one genuinely new fact every quarter of an hour it's just about possible to turn it into a reasonable news story.

The event takes place in a cavernous hall, and the stage is backed by a projection screen easily as big as that in a large cinema. At some points, every inch is awash with high resolution graphics and the effect is genuinely impressive. The sound is loud enough to dislodge ear wax, and when at one point a clip of the Animatrix video is shown it's rather a shock when they fade it out after two minutes and you realise you're still in a presentation. "If you want any more, you'll have to pay for it" jokes the presenter, which in the context of the subject under discussion -- digital rights management -- elicits a rather uneasy laugh from the floor. I happen to know that certain people have been taking advantage of the flood of free wireless networking that permeates the show to keep up with some of their favourite TV series through means illicit, and I rather suspect they're not in the minority. Later, on going through the press pack, I discover the terms of service of that wireless networking -- it says, among other things, that you're not allowed to use it to "decrypt... the Intel Web site". How else are we expected to understand the press releases, chaps?

One of the more forced jokes in the keynote was the use of Intel's Universal Communicator super-smart phone -- it's a technology demonstrator, not a product, but is every bit as well designed as a saleable item -- to summon a flash mob. This duly assembles outside the hall and shouts various amusing slogans: I'm mildly disappointed that the organisers don't choose to copy yet another current cultural silliness and suspend CTO Pat Gelsinger in a glass box in the middle of the hall for the duration. He's a nice chap, at least when dealing with us journalists, and always up for a bit of entertainment.

There are two ghosts at the feast. One is Prescott, the next generation Pentium processor that'll be announced soon. Just not here or now. The other is Mike Magee, undead proprietor of scurrilous silicon scandal sheet The Inquirer. He's off in Taiwan this week, and has missed IDF for the first time in living memory: even the Intel execs are slightly unnerved by his absence and crack the odd nervous joke as if even mentioning his name might summon him in a cloud of sulphurous cigar smoke and really, really satanic questions. Give us some warning next time, Mike, and we'll bring a cardboard cut-out to prob in the corner of the bar. It's really not the same without you.