Compuware - the biggest Macintosh-only dealer in the US - has a no-nonsense approach to its promotions. It is constantly making a big song and dance about its stance on Apple hardware and its prices. But its latest promotion really caught my eye.
Adverts for medical products and cars over here often mention competitors' products and prices, but the only equivalent in the computer industry was Apple's G3 chip promotion, which claimed Intel's Pentium is less than half as fast.
Now, Compuware has begun aggressively comparing prices on the front page of its brochure. 'Compuware beats Fry's and Comp USA' it reads, showing how much each reseller charges for typical systems - it seems the cutthroat nature of competitive advertising has entered the computer dealer market.
The Prince and the sited pirates
There once was a musician called Prince. Then, thanks to contractual wrangles over his artistic rights, he became The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Then 'The Artist', and finally just a symbol - '~O+>', or something.
Well, ~O+> must have read about internet music pirates in this column last week, because since then he has sent out 30 threatening letters to those allegedly infringing on his artistic rights. Perhaps the site owners will change their names to ;-).
How to get good head in marketing
The internet's obsession with Bill Clinton's sexual exploits continues - but not without a backlash. IhadsexwithClinton.com was set up in response to the intrusion into Clinton's life and the irrelevance of the whole issue to his political office.
Under the banner, 'Do you want the government to turn into the Jerry Springer Show?' people are encouraged to fabricate sexual liasons with Clinton - the theory being that if enough do so, the special prosecutor's investigation will be plunged into farce.
It's a nice idea and I wish them well, but, being the US, the idea has been lost under a mass marketing effort by the Website owners - you can now buy T-shirts, stickers and, worst of all, a book compiling the sordid 'confessions'.
I suppose it's just the American way.
Stuff a' nonsense
I'm feeling rather patriotic at the moment, so I was a little peeved to read in a US networking report that Europeans are backward. In it, the author was amazed that the majority of British companies do not opt for ATM or Frame Relay.
'Our cousins in Britain will have none of it. The high-speed transmission scheme of choice is 100Mbps Fast Ethernet,' it said. We also rapidly adopted the wireless, the television, Windows NT and ISDN, believe it or not.
Making a fresh pot
The Silicon Valley view of Java seems to change every five minutes. After the JavaOne love-in, the industry was ready to settle down and spend the rest of its life with it. But time breeds contempt.
Now, Java doesn't solve any actual business problems and it is too much of a nice theory lesson, without enough practical conclusions. The problem is that Sun is still selling Java as an antithesis to Microsoft. But, as much as people don't want to be tied to Windows, they don't want to be tied to Java either.
Which is why collaborators IBM and Oracle are so important. They can provide the corporate clout and experience to apply Java to business problems.
With them in tow, Sun can marry companies to the blissful multi-platform, multi-vendor systems it vows to offer.
Extra non-sensory perception
Silicon Valley loves its lists, especially a Top 10. Everything must be ranked and graded and everyone is better or worse than everyone else.
Time magazine recently continued the phenomenon by carrying a list of the top 20 leaders of the century.
I must admit, it did prove interesting, but I question some points. Adolf Hitler was in, but Saddam Hussein was not. Ronald Reagan, who slept every afternoon when in office, was in, but Homer Simpson, who sleeps every afternoon when he is in his office, was not. If it wasn't for the inclusion of Maggie Thatcher and Winston Churchill, I would have felt cheated (but naturally too reserved to complain).
Another example of this list and rank obsession is CHS Electronics. It may be a major force in Europe, but up until now, it has had little prominence in the US. But all that has changed with its entry into the Fortune 500 - the definitive list of the largest industrial corporations in the US.
This may seem a cosmetic, unimportant difference to us, but in the US, CHS will now be regarded an important distributor.
Arise, Sir Simpson
My sources tell me that the episode proving that The Simpsons is the best programme on television was recently shown in your neck of the woods.
To summarise, Homer sets up an internet service provider and Bill Gates comes along, planning to buy him out. But just when Homer thinks he has made it, Gates destroys his intellectual property and leaves without paying.
Technology has come a long way and is now entrenched in our lives. Even the US' favourite comedies - Seinfeld and The Simpsons - make jokes at Microsoft's expense and everybody understands them. At this rate, I'll be doing stand-up before the year's out.
But not even Homer couldn't come up with anything as bad as the sickening sentimental schmaltz I saw at the end of a telly programme the other day.
Someone on it said: The last four letters of American are 'I can'. Oh yeah? Don't forget, fellow patriots, that the last three letters of British are 'ish'.
James Harding is US editor of VNU Newswire, based in San Francisco.
He can be reached at [email protected] or on 00 1 650 306 0879.
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