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Arif Mohamed's Weekend Diary

Written by Arif Mohamed, Contributor

The pajama party on Saturday robbed me of Sunday, but it's my own fault, I guess. So, by Monday, I felt like I hadn't left the office at all. All the large stories this week are coming from Comdex and you can sense a lull as the UK awaits product launches and initiatives from across the water.

The theme for today was Lotus, which poured Java into SmartSuite and claimed it had more people working on Java than anything else on the planet. I liked the SmartSuite story so much I (accidentally) posted it twice. Meanwhile, in some far and distant land, Blair pledges a referendum on Europe, Jemima and Imrahn Kahn have a son and the Russian Mars 96 probe crashes into the sea.


Andy Grove kicked off Comdex in Las Vegas. Here, the theme for the day was Internet Services. Virgin Net made a splash at London's Adrenaline Village, and Microsoft showed off its new MSN at the Commonwealth Institute.

Garret and I traveled through the icy rain to see Richard Branson smiling for the cameras and proudly announcing his lack of knowledge on things Internet. His job was to be a brand, wear a silver suit and jump through a big net for the cameras (Virgin in the Net - geddit?). Low on tech and high on glitz, the launch seemed to characterise a service which sweeps all that esoteria deep under the carpet, and will probably sell well to people like my mum, who recently declared she wanted to "get the Web".

Microsoft's MSN re-launch in the afternoon was evidence that the Web is, indeed, something that you can 'get'. The service will splice the Web into six channels (to start with) and broadcast it into punters' living rooms. Choose satellite, choose cable, choose the Web. Looks like we're stuck with the devil we know.


Wednesday was monitor day. Ziff Towers saw a monitor with the highest resolution ever at 1856 x 1392 at 75Hz; and the largest commercially available LCD TFT screen (16.1-inch). It costs a bomb and I want one.

The Comdex stories came in thick and fast, DVD, USB, Windows CE - no huge revelations because most of it had been leaked or gleaned beforehand, but good solid news nonetheless. It is disappointing that the UK will have to wait for a lot of these goodies to appear over here, especially stuff like Sharp's Colour Zaurus handheld which has a 5-inch TFT 65,000-colour screen. (I want one.)


UK news was thin on the ground, but 56K modems and 2-foot screens came out of Comdex.

Later on, CompuServe laid on the beers at London's Limelight club, which they hired for two grand. With a further grand behind the bar, we celebrated their new service (that's three Net service launches this week), and partied into the night. The Limelight used to be a hang-out for Goths and Glams, I learned, but not any more. CompuServe (or CSi as they now call themselves) had hired and wired a set of Net-connected PCs at the side which drew the crowds to the FHM site and dodgy chat forums. Tut, journalists, eh?

As I staggered towards some grotesque fast food shack in Leicester Square, I wondered what sort of a party has a set of Net-equipped PCs as its centrepiece? I've got to get out more.


Garret trooped on from the CSi party to another venue, and I stayed on in a private lounge upstairs in the Limelight. Today was understandably subdued and we battled on through crushing hangovers. Microsoft and BT have put together a site so users can learn about and order ISDN over the Web - good work fellas.

Tonight's going to be a quiet one, but it looks like Saturday night's going to be the Blue Note, a dance club somewhere in the capital. Just maybe, for once, I can stay away from a monitor for two whole days. Nope, no can do: on Sunday I'm going down to Surrey to visit my sister. You guessed it, she wants help with an Apple Mac.

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