Wednesday: Beware the booth virus

Wednesday 14/05/2003More iForuming. As well as cruising the show floor, looking at various thin clients, software products, server thingies and the like, I present myself in the press room for various one-on-ones.

Wednesday 14/05/2003
More iForuming. As well as cruising the show floor, looking at various thin clients, software products, server thingies and the like, I present myself in the press room for various one-on-ones. There are some interesting discussions with Inmarsat, Symbol, HP and Wyse -- watch this space for more -- but one toe-curlingly painful one with Microsoft and Citrix about their relationship. Now, I am a technology journalist. It says so on my business card. I have an engineer's gut mistrust of marketing departments, I instinctively flinch from positioning strategies, and I regard happy-clappy ain't-we-clever presentations with the deepest suspicion. Unfortunately, the Citrix-Microsoft relationship is entirely about things they won't talk about, while the public face is one of mutual boosterism. Perhaps I poisoned the interview by starting off with "Let me guess: you both think the other's fantastic, and things are going even better than they were last year, when they were going pretty darn well?". Er, yes. That was what they were going to say. By leveraging off each other's strengths and unique insights, they can present complete best of breed solutions... you know the score. It was more than I could bear. Yes, they'll be doing some co-branded stuff later this year, and HP may well be joining in. How, I wondered, will Citrix's other partners -- especially those in direct competition with HP -- feel about that? Oh, Citrix cares about all its partners. How come Citrix is in the unique position of being so close to Microsoft without suffering the usual fate of such companies? Mutual respect of each other's core competencies. I'm afraid I was unable to swallow my instinctive reaction. The Citrix woman smiled happily, but the Microsoft representative -- a rather angular young man from the French office -- wasn't nearly so sanguine. As the interview ended, he practically redefined the word brusque with his "Thank you", expressed with enough Gallic disdain to fuel French foreign policy for the next 50 years. Perhaps it was the sheer blistering force of that statement, but shortly afterwards the network for the show went away. It hadn't been fantastic -- for a company dedicated to connectivity and mobility, the flakiness of the 802.11b in the press room was deliciously ironic -- but now it was gone completely. A few seconds later, a red-shirted Citrixian dashed into the press room. "It's a bloody virus on one of the booths!" he said as he commandeered one of the press terminals. Turns out that this had happened on the Sunday, during set-up: a Citrix partner had introduced a nasty little critter that flooded the network. All in all, an object lesson in real-world computing, and refreshing to behold after my close encounter with the dark forces of marketing.