It had been a long conversation and the Awfully Nice Chap on the phone wasn't giving up without a fight. We weren't actually fighting, but we were sort of disagreeing.
Put simply, Silicon Graphics (SGI) is launching some PCs, or at least if it isn't launching PCs, the company insists it is launching visual workstations. I was trying to convince the Awfully Nice Chap that it was a PC first and foremost and perhaps a visual workstation some way after that.
He gamely disagreed.
What can you say about visual workstations? Well, they have Pentium IIs and run Windows NT. 'Sounds very much like a PC to me,' I said, but the Awfully Nice Chap didn't really want me to go away with that impression - he was in marketing, you see.
And let us not think any less of these PCs, just because they are called visual workstations. We should be grateful that someone out there is brave enough to call a bunch of high-end, reasonably high-priced PCs something fancy like visual workstations and not, say, a Hokey-Cokey 2000. That takes guts. Perhaps not a great deal of brains, but guts certainly.
My only concern is that it is 1999 and this kind of marketing ploy has been relegated to the cupboard marked 'also-rans' (which is certainly not SGI's position). It smacks of those 80s campaigns when some company was trying to sell us another 386 but dressed it up as something else. Do you remember when we were going to buy upgradable PCs and we would simply buy a new card with a processor on it? The result - we'd been upgraded.
That the new card was twice the cost of the original PC was, apparently, a clear advantage.
I had a similar line of conversation the other day with a charming PR woman, who was trying very hard to convince me that I should go to a press announcement from AutoDesk - you know, the AutoCad people. I was attracted because it was being held on a boat going up the Thames. 'What's the announcement?' I asked. 'You'll have to come along and find out,' she answered, adding: 'Oh, by the way, anything you are told is embargoed for a week or so.' 'New version of AutoCad?' I asked. 'Come along and find out,' she replied.
Oddly, she seemed surprised when I said I'd wait for the press release.
This is another rather 80s idea: you're teased onto a trip where you discover that you've just wasted your afternoon while you are there, and not afterwards.
It concerns me that companies such as SGI and AutoDesk are still behaving like it's 1985, while the rest of them - such as Compaq, Microsoft, Apple, even IBM - are going for the millennium in a big way. You don't think SGI and AutoDesk have been bought out by the old British Leyland management, do you? For goodness' sake, don't run AutoCad on a visual workstation, especially if you're going up the Thames.
Chris Long is a freelance IT journalist.
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