The other Big Apple

The other Big Apple

I've been living the bachelor life this week. Rose finally flipped over what she calls `California's tobacco fascists' and flew to New York `to be with some normal people'. I don't know when she'll be back - she called me, but it was to ask me to join her there, not to say when she'll be back.iPaq-ing a punchI should have gone with her, because then I could have gone to the launch of Compaq's new Internet device. And for those of you who were wondering, it's no coincidence that the iPaq's name is so similar to Apple's iMac. Apparently, Compaq is purposely pushing the trademark infringement envelope with Apple. Compaq believes that confusion between the products would be a good thing, given the iMac's reputation of being legacy-free - which is the goal of the iPaq.

My sources also say that Compaq considered the possibility of being sued, but decided that a highly publicised lawsuit from hothead Steve Jobs would be good publicity.

The whole thing could backfire if Apple does not make a fuss, but instead quietly proves its case in court - as it did the same day the iPaq was launched (ironically) with two companies that were found to have infringed on the patent for the iMac's design. Compaq may find itself having to rename the iPaq without getting the publicity it craves.

Speaking of publicity, I'm told it was no coincidence that General Motors announced its online trading exchange on the same day that Ford Motor announced a similar site. A source let it slip that GM was hesitating between using CommerceOne or the Oracle Exchange technology. When GM chose CommerceOne, Oracle ran off to sign a hasty deal with Ford, and announced the AutoXchange joint venture the same day the deal was done - November 2. GM, which was to unveil its TradeXchange venture on November 5, had to move up the announcement so it wouldn't look like it was missing the boat.

This anecdote highlights one of the biggest problems with technology: that staying ahead of the field gets harder and harder. But if you're an IT vendor, the problem becomes worse, because one slip can trash your reputation as an innovator.

One way of minimising this damage is to buy the technology you're missing from another company and pretend it's homegrown - which is exactly what I hear SAP's been doing. I was told that, despite its protests about the work that is going into its portal site, what you find under the covers is HP's E-speak code and Tibco's middleware software to link SAP's client/server apps to the Web.

My final tip is designed to placate Peter Solvik, who was not a happy man after reading last week's column, in which I said that he may quit his job as CIO of Cisco to join application service provider Asera. Solvik got in touch to firmly deny the story. We believe you, Peter.

With Rose away I finally managed to start dealing with the backlog of e-mail in my inbox. The first one I came to was a message from Clairvoyant Software, with the subject line `Can we meet with you?' It was easy to deal with - I just replied by saying, `Shouldn't you know the answer to that already?'

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld.

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