Huge US distribution company Tech Data has been very keen on the idea of assembling and building PCs for vendors. But Tech Data is more than just attracted by IBM's PC operation. In what is more than a fleeting romance, it has gone a long way beyond just seeing it for weekly dinner dates. That's right, it has gone the whole hog and moved in with IBM at Big Blue's manufacturing facility in North Carolina.
Like every couple during the honeymoon period, the companies have professed true love in their co-habitation. They've even given it their own slushy, special name, Factory Direct, to show how happy they are to be able to give resellers their hardware more quickly and efficiently. The happy couple offer two-day delivery to US resellers and speak of their bliss in living under the same roof in North Carolina.
But I can't help thinking it will all end in tears. As they say on Men Behaving Badly, moving in together is the start of a very slippery slope.
Of course, they would say both partners don't have to leave the office to see each other. I say they will argue and be sick of the sight of each other. They would say they can still go out and see other parties. I would say the other partner will sulk if there is so much as a hint of signing deals with anyone else.
Before you know it, IBM will be bossing Tech Data around, complaining when deliveries are not on the table on time and generally 'not being as happy as we were before we lived together'.
Co-habitation is not all it's cracked up to be. That 'we have a win-win situation' idea will soon wear off, they will form relationships with others, split up, dissolve the partnership and argue over who pays the mortgage on the place in North Carolina.
What do you do if your other half gets a high-powered job in Silicon Valley? Nancy Engel, who is married to former Novell executive and US Web chief technology officer Sheldon Laube, closed her New York medical centre and moved here with him.
Understandably, she has absolutely no interest in the technology business but was nevertheless forced to schmooze at all of the IT parties - events where people act and talk as if they are in the office but just in a marginally more sociable setting. Bored stiff, she was naturally at a loss about what to do. And so she started taking photos.
Engel has over 5,000 pictures of industry execs in unflattering, hideous close-up detail - everyone from Novell chief executive Eric Schmidt (walked into the ugly door) to Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates (fell face-first down the ugly stairs) to even Sybase chief executive Mitchell Kertzmann (beaten soundly with the ugly stick).
Armed with these snaps, she is fearless. Now, she says, she has something more interesting to talk to these tecchie people about. Maybe I should get a camera.
Bill at the school Gates
Talking of that Microsoft CEO, he is currently parading around the US to show how nice he is by supporting the use of computers in schools.
Admittedly, he is renowned as the biggest charity-giver in the US, but then on the other hand, he is also the richest executive in the world.
Gates' latest opportunity to visit a school was in Silicon Valley. It sounded like fun. It was in East Palo Alto - a place two miles from Palo Alto proper but might as well be another state. Palo Alto has rich technology companies, huge houses flanked by lush, green gardens, Stanford University and coffee shops packed with posh yuppies.
East Palo Alto has liquor stores, ramshackle shacks flanked by thick, ugly bars, the school of hard knocks and street corners packed with drug dealers.
So, imagine the security around the world's least streetwise man as he goes into the school. I wonder if the metal detector at the door, usually in place to stop students bringing in guns, was used on that day?
Tea and sympathy (and dieting)
The days of the interesting online chat are over - Sarah, Duchess of York, aka Fergie, is hosting an internet discussion over afternoon tea.
A company called Hearst Home Arts is hosting a discussion on food, dieting and the struggles with weight - all the subjects in which Fergie is most knowledgeable.
But, quite frankly, this new-fangled cyber tea just won't do. This so-called afternoon tea is to take place at 1.30pm. And they call that tea?
Email is a wonderful tool. You can use it to bitch about people, insult them, discuss things with people you don't want to actually talk to and spread gossip to an unlimited number of friends. And, although some companies are keeping stored copies of emails and using Websites in legal action, the medium is still the most outspoken and lawsuit-free there is.
But then email has its down side. Particularly if you are former White House placement student Monica Lewinsky or one of her friends. Journalists from all over the world have been bombarding her, her acquaintances and her former class mates with emailed requests for information, pictures and gossip, and of course offering confidentiality, considerate treatment and even money.
It seems everyone from Time Magazine to NBC wants information on Lewinsky, to satisfy the US public's clamour for details on an issue that should be subjudice and could render the whole country's economy unstable if it forces President Clinton out of office.
The ironic thing is that the news service that originally spread the rumour about Lewinsky used the medium that has the least history of legal challenge - the internet and email.
James Harding is US editor of VNU Newswire, based in San Francisco.
He can be reached at [email protected] or on 00 1 415 306 0879.
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