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CeBIT 98: The Bootnotes of Lou

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A year ago: Deutsche Messe AG's apparent campaign to destroy Germany's reputation for efficiency took another giant leap forward this year. The Register habitually holes-up at the other end of an express train ride from Hanover, cunningly not catching the trains that stop at the special show station so we can get a seat. But these trains are now few and far between, so we kept having to stand while vastly-increased volumes of passengers headed for Laatzen, the CeBIT station. So on to the next great move from Deutsche Messe. Instead of the bus that took you from Laatzen to the show, there's a new 'Skywalk' that lets the milling throng walk there instead. At the other end the ticket gates are now automated. You put your ticket in, wait until it spits it out and tells you to go. This probably increases the time spent at the turnstile by a factor of three to five, so you shuffle slowly towards the gates as one of a slow moving mob of thousands. Another 20 minutes walk gets you to press registration, if you're press. Yup, more innovation. The ratchet of security has been tightened some more, so one by one the 'alleged' journalists get to have a long argument. We got in finally with the aid of a press card and a suggestion that "if you want to see our goddamm clippings you'd better check the URL yourself." The Psion Series 5 with a cellular connection was being held in reserve for this, but we think it was the cold, murderous stare that finally made the clerk give in. Earlier this year the Financial Times announced Mitsubishi's withdrawal from the PC market. The trouble was that the story, based on an interview with company PC guru Dr Peter Horne, was inaccurate. Mitsubishi was getting out of the consumer PC market and the FT had got it horribly wrong. Now, non-journalists might think that 'there but the grace of god go I' would come into it for us, but not a bit of it. Heartless, short-sighted thugs that we all are, journos everywhere laughed their socks off about that one, snickering some more when they noticed the FT had spelled Dr Peter's name wrong and slightly misplaced Samsung's nationality. But we learn that it was funnier than that, if you're not Dr Peter Horne, that is. The day the story came out Dr Peter was in Japan, heading into a meeting with the Mitsubishi High Command. Now, the FT may be British, but it's an international paper with international editions, including a Far East one which, time zones being what they are, is published when the Mitsubishi Electric PC Company's spinmeisters are abed in the vicinity of Birmingham, UK. The FT not being out in the UK yet, they snooze on blissfully unaware of what will detonate in a couple more hours. If it wasn't detonating in the boardrooms of Mitsubishi Japan already, that is. Dr Peter strides in, notes that the bosses are looking somewhat more scrutable than usual, and are holding copies of the Financial Times and pointing at the front page, which has Dr Peter quoted as closing a whole division without asking them first. What can he do? Something honourable but messy involving a Swiss Army knife? But we can't go on - we feel another helpless giggling fit coming on… As we've mentioned before, IBM's e-Business strategy plays in unexpected ways in parts of the UK where E stands most often for the drug Ecstasy. So we don't know what we should say about the German headline in the brochure for the E-Plus mobile system that says "Stars live bei E-Plus." You pronounce 'bei' buy, but that doesn't help really, does it? ®

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