Somehow Mole managed to miss it, but two weeks ago Hayes Microcomputer introduced an important new concept almost certain to catch on among struggling IT manufacturers. The important new concept is the "virtual workplace" and the salient points to bear in mind are 1) that Hayes was once the world's leading maker of modems and 2) that it isn't anymore. Two years ago Hayes entered that state of corporate suspended animation known as Chapter 11, an arrangement under which US companies that are virtually bankrupt are protected from their creditors until they can get back on their feet. This process usually involves a little ritual bloodletting in the form of high-level management changes - you know the sort of thing: the people who were too close to the business are replaced by specialists and consultants whose strength is that they know nothing at all about it; any remaining technocrats are rounded up and beheaded; and whoever was in charge of sales has his entrails hung out to dry on the front of corporate HQ as a gentle reminder to everyone else that shareholders do not like failure. All of which is highly amusing to the 35 staff of Hayes in Europe, who now have a "virtual general manager" following the resignation a few weeks ago of the actual GM, Jeremy Butt: a "virtual marketing manager" after the real one, Jane Rimmer, chose to cut her working week from five to two days and the promise of a "virtual product range" after hearing the company's founder and chief purveyor of marketing hokum Dennis Hayes declare that modems would become, er, faster in future, that more people would, um, use them and, er, well that's it. If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of 35 virtual CVs trilling over the phone lines to virtual recruitment agencies.
You may have read that the sleaze-conscious government, with a bit of help from British Telecom, has come up with a solution to the problem that was exercising all of our minds: what to do about the evil people who leave cards in telephone boxes advertising services of an intimate nature. BT has made it clear that it will cut off the livelihoods of French schoolmistresses, buxom Swedish maids or leather-clad Lithuanians with a taste for the lash who continue to promote themselves in this way. Even those who question whether BT is the right choice of moral arbiter can scarcely fail to agree that this is a simple but immensely effective solution.
And only a thoroughly irresponsible and cynical soul would add that it's only a matter of time before someone leaves a card advertising "Virginia - stern dominatrix will beat you into submission then cut herself off" accompanied by the phone number of Mrs Bottomley. In the unlikely event that those who dreamt up this clever scheme have failed to take this and other delightful contingencies into account, Mole would respectfully request that readers take care not to leave copies of this column in metropolitan area phone boxes.
Perhaps when BT has finished cleaning up the streets it could devote more of its energies to the business of selling ISDN, before Brussels introduces sweeping deregulation and the much more forward-looking French and German telecoms operators move in and clean up. A reader who finally found someone at BT who had actually heard of ISDN and, even more remarkably, had the presence of mind to pop some literature in the post, was amused to receive a case study of Escom, the well-known retailer of PCs which went to the wall several months ago.
By contrast, no one could ever accuse Intel of failing to spot a marketing opportunity. The company has been busy mailing dealers to remind them that with falling prices, wholesale migration to 32-bit software and the explosion of interest in the Net, there has never been a better time to buy Pentium Pro PCs. The brochure reminds dealers that they can even order their sales support information straight from its Web site. The only thing that detracts from this powerful message is that the accompanying screen shot clearly depicts Netscape Navigator running on an Apple Mac.
Bill Clinton may feel that his second term is in the bag, but he shouldn't be so sure. The infinitely ambitious Bill Gates, who hates being only the world's second most famous Bill, may be readying a late challenge.
Even Gates is aware, however, that it would take something of a political coup to get in the running so late in the campaign. Mole can exclusively reveal that the Gates play for the Whitehouse will turn on no less a card than a solution to the crisis in the Middle East. Why else does the Microsoft Select service include the Arabic and Hebrew releases on the same CD?
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