Vice president Al Gore is a busy man. When he's not fulfilling the post's traditional duties - raising party funds or learning how to spell - he is working on party issues and housekeeping. One duty involves sending messages of congratulation to colleagues, including Senator Daniel Moynihan, a member of the Democratic Party, who celebrated his 71st birthday recently.
Unfortunately, Gore gets one of his staff to do this by computer. Result - Moynihan was congratulated on having twins. Thankfully, that is something technology cannot do yet.
Big Blue's big bucks
IBM has offered one of its resellers money. The $40 million cash advance isn't a loan to cover the IBM kit it bought - it lent the reseller $260 million in February - or linked to the vendor's channel assembly programme.
No, IBM has given Hartford Computer Group $40 million to spend any way it wants. The money is earmarked for acquisition, despite the difficulty Hartford will have managing its rapid growth and impending initial public offering.
Hartford chief executive Anthony Graffia admits he did contact some banks, but IBM had 'a unique understanding of our situation'. Big Blue said it worked with a merchant bank on the deal and insists it is not about to become a bank itself. But in the turbulent technology trade, IBM Credit clearly sees a way to help its resellers in the increasingly direct PC business, and make money on strategic investments.
Sour grapes of wrath
I have mentioned before that former Apple chief executive Gil Amelio - arguably my least favourite executive ever - has begun trying to salvage his reputation with a book. In it, he claims Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison tried to undermine him with false takeover bids. But he saves his bitchiest comments for Apple interim chief executive, Steve Jobs.
Don't bother buying the book, I'll tell you what Amelio claims. He said Jobs took credit for work that was not his, launched a campaign to oust Amelio and even parked in handicapped-only spaces at Apple. Amelio's pettiest claim is that he ended his time at Apple more than $500,000 out of pocket.
But in calculating this figure, Amelio apparently omitted the fact that he repaid a $2.5 million loan Apple had given him. Libraries don't have sour grapes sections, so file Amelio's book under fiction.
Breaking the language barrier
Digital's AltaVista unit has begun offering a free translation service called Babelfish, the name of the ear-mounted translating animal in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The service allows you to submit plain text as well as Web page addresses for translation. As this column also appears in PC Dealer Belgium, I have often wondered what all those words mean in a foreign language. Now I can pick up the text from the column and translate it back into English. Then I might find out what on earth I am talking about.
Compaq cut its US computer prices by a hefty wad recently, prompting a mixture of fear, disbelief and annoyance from its competitors. The cuts, which are at least the fifth I can remember in the past 12 months, have pushed margins in the US to the limit. Hewlett Packard and IBM have also dropped their prices, claiming they are not following anyone else's pricing but are 'concentrating on target markets' and 'maintaining a strategy' - a strategy of not losing out to a cheaper rival, surely.
Among all the projected profit cuts and market share losses for other vendors, there are only a few companies that seem to be able to cope with Compaq's move - the canny resellers, of course. They are still able to build an MMX-based PC for under $800 and undercut Compaq. Ironically, all these Intel-based PC manufacturers could face trouble in the future thanks to Katmai, Intel's Pentium II for laptops, which is in development now. Sources claim Katmai has major problems with power use and overheating.
It is so bad, they claim, that all the vendors will have to redesign their motherboards to include a deeper heat sink and add another cooling fan.
All this comes while Apple is advertising that its G3 chip is roughly twice as fast as the Pentium II, taking the mickey out of Intel's bunny men technicians. The Apple faithful are so amused by the ad that they are constantly harping on about it; so much so that Intel's marketing machine has begun a campaign inside the company to tell its staff that Apple's ad uses outdated, unrepresentative benchmarks. The debate has got so heated, if you'll pardon the pun, that Mac evangelists have even found an Intel employee supporting them.
Beware the hides of March
When you need a break from the stress of life in Silicon Valley, a stroll in a national park comes as a welcome break. The people in IT's epicentre are animals - prepared to trample over anything in their path - so taking a relaxing amble and enjoying nature should do some good. At least that is what Gwyneth Barton-Horn thought when she took her dog to Wildcat Canyon Park, across the water from Silicon Valley. As she walked in the sunshine, she came across some cows on the path and stopped.
After a few seconds, they hadn't moved, so she started to walk around them. Amazingly, as she got close, one cow charged at her and knocked her over, trampling her and bruising her ribs and legs, while some of the other cows went for her dog and punctured its lung.
A number of farmers accounted for the incident on local television, but I've got a better explanation. Ms Barton-Horn works for direct PC vendor Micron Technology. I'll wager our bovine friends were aware of this - as fully paid-up operatives of Gateway 2000.
Beware the mooing of the contract cows.
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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