MS and friends plan London City of Future on Dome site

Consortium plans to take punters for biggest ride in Europe

Microsoft is involved in one of the bids to find a role for the UK's world-famous Millennium Dome - but not, apparently, with Microsoft money. The UK government is planning to get itself shot of structure, built to celebrate the Millennium and now shaping up to be something of a Big Flop, at the end of this year, and has shortlisted six proposals for its future. Remarkably, having tapped private finance to get the world's best New Year party (government spinmeister) or London's biggest white elephant (London mayoral candidate Susan Kramer) built, the government is proposing to tap it again to find a role for the thing in the future. The bid Microsoft is involved in is for, uh-oh, the City of the Future. The money for this bids is coming from South African property and leisure group Monex and UK real estate outfit MEPC, while Microsoft, Nortel, Cisco, 3Com, construction group Laing and brewery, catering and leisure group Whitbread. You can see the tech-heavy bent of this consortium's bid pretty clearly. If it's accepted, they'll be building a 120-acre technology theme park with the Dome at its centre, and the largest covered water features and rides in Europe. Presumably there'll be some seriously networked technology in there as well, so that the backers can strut their stuff, but we all know what geeks really like. A cursory look at the Microsoft UK Web site meanwhile reveals that Whitbread, in addition to coming in handy for supplying the punters with large quantities of beer, food and sundry skittles, might just be a Microsoft trusty. It's running Microsoft SQL-based systems for its outlets, which means the EPOS systems in a City of the Future Dome could turn out to be NT workstations (no, these really do exist, honest), and Whitbread retail architect John Michell turns out to be chairman of Microsoft's European Customer Advisory Board. One possible snag with the bid, of course, is that presumably the actual product will be expected to ship reasonably soon after the current raging success/desperate white elephant-meisters up sticks on 31 December 2000. This could be a problem. Register scary fact: Register uberspinmeister Drew Cullen says he took the kids to the Dome and it was great. He'll be telling us he paid next. ®

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