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Trading Places: If Microsoft ran Ikea...

Ikea's founder Ingvar Kamprad, the Swede who founded furniture retail chain IKEA, has overtaken Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. Imagine a universe in which these brilliant entrepreneurs traded places

What a terrible weekend. I spent Saturday queuing up outside Microsoft's furniture show room on Hanger Lane. Security headaches mean we're all searched three times by casually dressed Floor Nerds before being allowed to enter the building, although two teenagers walked past us wearing stripy shirts and eye masks, carrying several large desktops to their van.

Inside we form another queue to sign our Life Time Terms of Service Furniture Purchase Agreements, and there's the usual weirdo customer up ahead, frothing at the mouth, complaining about the 'one-sided agreement', until a team of hatchet-faced Microsoft lawyers lead him away to the ball room for some Snickers cake and a time-out.

We desperately need a new sofa, but we can't afford Apple prices (who wouldn't buy a CouchPod if they could afford it?), and Microsoft has driven John Lewis, MFI , and World of Leather out of business. And now Habitat has gone broke, too, so we're back at Microsoft again. It's really the only game in town.

I head to the software section, expecting to see a long line of neatly arranged sofas. There's only one, and it's standing alone on a plinth. It's alright. It'll do the job. It's just nothing special. I realize everyone I know has it, yet nobody really likes it.

I see a Floor Nerd I can ask for advice. He's fiddling with his remote telephone headset, so it's hard to get his attention, but eventually I catch his eye.

"Why do you only sell one sofa? We're all so tired of it," I say.

He gives me a chipper, North American smile, and says, "Modular, integrated software design makes furnishing your home a dream!"

He hands me a 'Win 'n Doze' brochure, and says, "it's a perfect nap time! Every time!"

"I know, but I was looking for something a little different…"

"Customise your sofa! Make it your own!" he says brightly.

He points to a small hole in the right-hand arm of the sofa, and then produces a long silver rod with a plastic bracket at the end, which he sticks into the sofa arm, like a tiny, off-kilter metal flag.

"Your very own cup holder! Absolutely free!"

I'd always wondered what that hole was for. I stare at this pointless and unnecessary add-on, sigh, and say, "Alright. We'll take one."

"Great! You want cushions with that?"

"Of course."

"Wonderful! We can upgrade you to a sofa with built-in cushions for a small, one-time fee!"

I go downstairs to hand over my credit card. What a terrible weekend.

On the other hand, Monday morning has been great. Being an IT manager is great fun, even when you have to upgrade your entire network of Ikea PCs in a single morning.

My technical team picked up the flat-pack software and our developers assembled it this morning. The system was live in three hours, no muss, no fuss, although one of the guys did have to go back and pick up an encryption key that had fallen out of the package.

Everyone admired the new corporate desktop: smooth clean lines, nice colours, elegant functionality. The TuleBarr was a big hit, and people loved the cute little Billy bookmarks.

There were some complaints about the documentation: our Ikea cryptograph expert wasn't available so the development team had to try and translate the company's instruction hieroglyphs themselves, and at one point the entire network was configured upside down, but we got it right in the end.

It was also a great deal: three hundred quid for the lot, with complimentary tea-lights. They always come in handy when there's a power cut.