Wednesday

Wednesday 12/03/2003Intel launches Centrino! And to this end, hires Vinopolis -- a sort of warehouse theme park in London dedicated to the grape as Disneyworld is to the mouse.

Wednesday 12/03/2003
Intel launches Centrino! And to this end, hires Vinopolis -- a sort of warehouse theme park in London dedicated to the grape as Disneyworld is to the mouse. This is a good sign: Intel is normally no slouch when it comes to throwing a bash: how can it go wrong? Our hearts first sank when we crossed the threshold. There are two kinds of launches, press launches and punter launches. This was a mixture of the two, with the suits outnumbering the casual elegance of your average computer hack by a good twenty to one. And that means -- uh-oh -- huge great launch briefings covering stuff that may be new to the assembled high-status customers but we'd sat through more than once in the near past. Reviews supremo Charles Mclellan and I are informed by the smiling, super-efficient East German PR that there will be drinks from five to six, launch from six to seven, technical round tables from seven to eight and then more drinks. We contemplate this two hour chasm in the evening with some alarm. Charles proposes that as he's just posted three reviews of Centrino machines he should be left off being powerpointed to death about the chip, and I consider the many hours I've already spent in technical briefings talking to the chip designers. And so, we repair to the bar and stolidly ignore the ever-more frantic voices over the PA system calling the faithful to prayer in the main auditorium. By 6:05, the bar area -- which is lined either side by vendors showing off their laptops -- is substantially empty of all but the hardened hacks and some like-minded PRs from a certain famous PC company. And then -- tragedy! The stony-faced Russian behind the bar says niet. On orders from on high, the bar is closed until the end of the lectures. Surely not! A launch with no liquid? But the barman remains resolute, even as he lines up the glasses. Our PR engaged in a mammoth battle of wills, before which a lesser man would have instantly melted into a puddle of acquiescence on the floor, but only extracts a solitary glass of wine apiece before the Cossack with the bottles slams the shutters down but good. A rumour surfaced that there was another bar just outside the auditorium, and runners were dispatched to find out if this was true. They came back empty-gulletted. Various search parties were sent out: we combed Vinopolis, a place stacked to the rafters with bottles of wine and champagne, amphorae, fake vineyards and other accoutrements of the cup that cheers, but found not a drop to drink. Needless to say, we didn't remain dry -- but the details of our exploits are not fit for publication. By the time eight o'clock came round and the delegates poured out of their place of torture with tongues like pillows, we were appropriately lubricated to be able to say nice things about Intel once again. But reports from abroad indicate that other Centrino launches were similarly restricted in the once-endless Intel largesse: the bean-counters are abroad and no-one is safe...