The irony was double-edged at Computer 2000's SPIFF day for the launch of Microsoft's Office 2000 last week, themed around another massively overhyped launch - Star Wars Episode 1. Jon Clarke, Microsoft business manager at C2000, took journalists through some cleverly arranged snippets of The Phantom Menace to draw some comparisons between the film and the sales opportunities inherent in the software. The C2000 team had dubbed their voices over a sequence involving a discussion between a patrol of Imperial Stormtroopers, who transformed into a gang of computer dealers pontificating about the merits of the latest software upgrade. Funny though it was, PC Squealer couldn't help wondering whether the implication that Microsoft was the Evil Empire was intentional or not. And the pesky Dark Side didn't stop there. The sales floor presentation ended with some spectacular indoor fireworks, which inadvertently set off the fire alarm and the whole building had to be evacuated and wait in the car park for the fire brigade to arrive.
And staying with the Dark Side of the Force for a moment, Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft, recently made a whistlestop visit to London which provoked some interesting questions. We'd love to show you a picture of Ballmer alongside Phantom Menace baddie Darth Maul for comparative purposes, but we'd get sued by George Lucas before we could say 'Jedi Knight', so you'll have to make do with this pic our snapper took of the Microsoft prez and use your imagination. Is that a double-ended light sabre he's about to produce from thin air or what?
What's in a lame name?
NCI. Does anyone out there remember what this company is and what it does? PC Squealer happily forgives any of our worthy readers who don't, for reasons which will become apparent. Anyway, NCI, originally an Oracle spin-off company, has quietly gone about the business of changing its name to Liberate Technologies and filed for a $50 million IPO under its new moniker. Nothing particularly clever about that, you might think. But when the light bulb flashes in your head and you remember: 'Cripes! NCI used to stand for Network Computer Inc,' you realise that changing the name was the cleverest thing it could have done - and not a moment too soon, either.
After all, who in their right Silicon Valley mind would invest in a company that consistently advertises the fact that it once bet its future on the technological lame duck of the decade? Oh, what a difference a name makes.
The promotions department at Olympus has been keeping itself busy of late. Two releases from the optical company have recently landed on PC Squealer's desk , although we wondered why they bothered. The first relates to the promotion campaign for the iZoom 75 camera, starring Joan Collins. We were delighted to be informed that the former Dynasty superbitch could be observed climbing railings and sifting through garbage. Poo-ey! We're sure, however, that the garbage they were talking about wasn't the Olympus product range. We have since been sent a copy of the advert on a VHS tape, but frankly, no one can muster the enthusiasm to watch it. The second release, for a voice recognition dictaphone or some such gimmick, was a fictional letter of termination from a company boss to his secretary. We won't bore you with the details, but the highlight was the boss signing himself off as Dick Tation. Laugh? We nearly did.
Almost wherever we go in this industry we're bombarded with vendor hype, but we insist on three areas of our lives remaining sacred - the bedroom, the bathroom and, most importantly, the pub. Well, Unisys struck out on all of them during a recent media event hosted at its private resort in the hills just outside Nice. Decorating the hotel rooms with Unisys branded soaps and chocolates was bad enough, but setting up advertising hoardings in the downstairs bar was enough to make a humble hack choke on his or her beer. However, it appears that we English are too sensitive because the EMEA communications manager at Unisys assured us that most visitors to the hotel found the vendor's promotional activity 'subtle' and the environment 'unintimidating'. Mmm, for a pack of advertising sharks maybe. Nevertheless, the Unisys event did give PC Squealer the opportunity to be impressed - and, again, slightly scared - by the ability of French women to perform for seven hours straight.
Singing, that is. It's hard enough to belt out tunes such as I Will Survive for that long when English is your first language, but for a girl born and bred in the sunny climes of the Cote d'Azur, it was nothing short of amazing. What stamina! And proving that those French girls have a joie de vivre all of their own, our dear mademoiselle even had the entertainment savvy to use visual aids such as a cat mask and yellow feather boa to woo her cynical audience.
Do do Elron ron
Hands up those who have spent a little time surfing the internet at work. Most of us on a quiet day must have paid a fleeting visit to our favourite news or sports site, but those days may be coming to an end if Elron Software has its way. The spoilsport has released some software called Command View Internet Manager, which monitors employees' Web surfing habits. Net access can then be shut off by bosses. Elron is obviously trying to attract the control freak, coining the 'Big Brother is watching' phrase for marketing purposes. Orwell's novel 1984 may have been a work of fiction, but has proved to be prophetical, if perhaps a few years out.
PC Squealer was invited to a party this week by Iomega, in what used to be Aldwych Tube station. As we settled down with our beers and attempted to catch up with the other hacks, we were informed by very bad actors with false accents - who thought they were New York cops - to keep quiet while the Commissioner talked. Of course, we have absolutely no idea who the Commissioner was because we couldn't get into the presentation. But then again, do we care?
CEO Graeme Watt admits the trading climate is becoming a little more uncertain as he and CFO Graham Charlton reflect on the reseller's £1bn year
Security vendor appoints Infinigate as part of strategy to grow channel business
As the trade war between the US and China ramps up, Marian McHugh investigates what impact this will have on UK prices and how partners are adapting to higher costs
CRN quizzes Avaya CEO Jim Chirico on the firm's progress after exiting Chapter 11 earlier this year, and listing on the stock exchange