I have what I would call a healthy suspicion of two groups of people; those who wear hats while driving and those who develop software. Despite the fact that most propeller-heads are decent sorts, the odd one ? occasionally, a really odd one ? can be on a mission to tell you everything they know about programming. And they know a lot.
That?s why I was not really looking forward to Devcon, the Netscape Developers? Conference. I arrived. Grinning techies were buying Netscape merchandise including pants ? and I mean pants, not trousers ? and even toy Mozillas by the truckload. The promotional blurb read: ?Corba, Java Beans and LDAP! And that?s just the fun first day!? I couldn?t handle it any more. I put on my hat and got back into the car.
I was interested to hear there is speculation that Microsoft is trying to tie up a deal with the Marylebone Cricket Club to sponsor Lord?s, the home of cricket. Unthinkable? Maybe not. Over here I can?t watch any cricket so my substitute is baseball ? watching the San Francisco Giants play at Candlestick Park, which legally I should call 3Com Park under its sponsorship deal. I find that annoying, but it could be worse.
Qualcomm, which is behind Eudora software, sponsors another baseball ground which was named the Jack Murphy Stadium after a great player in the sport?s history. The media have been told off for calling the place ?Jack Murphy Stadium? without mentioning Qualcomm, so they have rebelled in disgust. They got round the problem by calling it ?The Murph?, leaving the company to lose face and the value of its sponsorship. All that money hasn?t had the effect its marketing staff expected.
Yet we all love the perk of free tickets to sporting events and in corporate America, particularly in the IT industry, it is considered the norm. Money?s influence on sport means sponsorship has become accepted; replacing sporting people and places that people consider sacrosanct should not be accepted.
Imagine this: a distributor enters the UK and wants to get brand awareness so it pays to rename Wembley ?Tech Data Stadium?. ?We?re on our way to Tech Data, our knees have gone all tremble-y? just doesn?t have the same ring. As for ?Lord?s Microsoft Cricket Ground?, that just will not do, or as my grandfather would have put it, it?s just not cricket.
I recently went to Candlestick to see the Giants play. 3Com was the major sponsor of the game, entertaining staff and dealers. First, the computer systems went down. Then the members of the 3Com sponsored band, The Monkees, played on despite the fact that their amplifier stopped and no one could hear them monkeying around, although we were too busy singing to put any of them down.
Next, Jim, 3Com reseller of the month, won the right to throw the first pitch of the game and missed his target, which prompted laughter from all. Finally, the 3Com-sponsored Giants went 7-0 down, fought back to make it 7-7 and then lost 11-7 at the death, sending 33,000 cold fans home in a bad mood. That?s why I watch baseball ? it?s as frustrating as cricket. I?m sure 3Com agrees.
NEC-Packard Bell is giving its business customers the option to buy direct, following Hewlett Packard and Compaq?s moves to embrace the direct ethic. In previous years, I have moaned at vendors for competing with their resellers, even if they carefully told us how they are still committed to their indirect channels and are working with them. But times have changed.
It has got to the stage where PC margins are so thin that even vendors are feeling the pinch ? a pinch that resellers and distributors have felt for years ? and they can?t match the prices of direct players like Dell.
The move towards more direct sales makes sense, as PCs become commodity products. It is not justifiable to moan any more. Simply put, any dealer that relies on margins from PCs to such an extent that it is moaning should change its business model.
A recent trip to Digital?s HQ near Boston gave me a delightful opportunity to be ridiculed in front of various Europeans about my nationality. At an evening dinner, we heard all about the stupid English and their taxes on the American patriots, who threw some tea in the Charles river to spark the battles that led to American independence ? the Boston Tea Party.
Then Digital treated us to a question and answer session with company executives. Despite our insistence on discussing the Intel lawsuit, they preferred to talk about other subjects ? Digital?s alliance with Microsoft, Windows NT, Microsoft, the NT OS and, er, NT. A clear case of a Boston NT party.
Chairman Bob Palmer also spoke to us in the Digital boardroom, a chamber in the classic wooden style with the ubiquitous American flag. It occurred to me that the room is where loud, expressive guys like Enrico Pesatori could have been hired and fired. It even has thick, wooden shutters on the windows to guarantee privacy.
At the end of Palmer?s allotted time, before we could collar him for more questions, he was whisked away through a secret back door which none of us had noticed in the hours we spent there. Ingenious. Presumably that door is the one Palmer uses to escape from the board when Digital?s results come out.
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