What's the difference between IBM and IKEA?

Big Blue humps furniture

Back when IBM was the computer industry, people used to joke that if the company offered orange crates to its leading clients, it would be guaranteed a 15 per cent take up, simply because they were Big Blue Crates.

IBM yesterday officially announced crates of the future in the shape of 'BlueSpace', a high-tech "workspace" that's a collaboration between its TJ Watson Research lab and Steelhead, the big US office furniture supplier. It's less whimsical than Scott Adams vision of a hi-tech cubicle, which we wrote about here.

BlueSpace allows temperature, humidity and white noise to be personally adjusted by the occupant. It doesn't say if the pointy-headed boss can readjust them, just so you don't get too comfortable, but we'd certainly insist on some kind of 'supervisoral override' feature.

It also allows information to be displayed "onto any surface... be it a wall, desktop or floor." Which could prove embarrassing if you're surfing rotten.com at the time. But IBM (motto: Think!) has already thought of that: "A guest badge in the office vicinity automatically helps cloak confidential information by prompting the Everywhere Display to project a generic image." Puppies, hopefully.

With echoes of the new iMac, the desk features a rotating monitor arm that allows the display to positioned anywhere along a semicircle. And a colour "technology totem" outside the workspace saves you the bother of telling visitors to piss off.

The only puzzle is why IBM chose Les Dennis to be the guinea pig for this futuristic cubicle, as the photograph in on press release webpage appears to indicate.

And a lingering suspicion remains that IBM, seeking new life for its once valuable EBCDIC brand, has struck a deal with IKEA. It sounds like it could be repurposed as a range of Swedish furniture. And maybe, now, it is. ®

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