Imanaged to catch the new James Bond film a few weekends ago. For those who haven't seen it yet, I recommend it. It's much better than Tomorrow Never Dies, and perhaps even edges GoldenEye. It's hard for me to compare it to the earlier Bonds, just because they have the sepia tint of nostalgia going for them. If I watch them now, they're terrible movies, but I remember them as jolly good fun. The plots were more diabolical, the gadgets more outrageous, the evil baddies far more evil.
The newer Bond baddies lack something somehow. The dude in GoldenEye was going to bring the world's financial system into chaos, making paupers out of billionaires. In a way, I thought that was noble. The guy in Tomorrow Never Dies, a sort of Murdoch/Gates conglomerate, wanted to dominate the world's media - and that would be different how?
And the `Bond Girls' aren't what they used to be. I remember when they had names like `Holly Goodhead' and `Pussy Galore' - names you wouldn't say in front of your mother. In the new flick, one of the Bond Girls is called `Christmas Jones'. I came out of the theatre saying it over and over in my head, hoping it would somehow come out naughty, but I don't get it. Any help would be appreciated.
The other distressing trend in recent Bonds is the villains' adoption of mainstream operating systems. In GoldenEye, the supremo baddie had installed IBM's OS/2 on all the machines in the underground lab. Despite the bullet-proof reputation of this OS, almost every computer had its splash screen sitting idly - no productive work was being done. The failure of this evil plot can therefore be attributed to poor implementation of IT.
In The World Is Not Enough, the baddie is seen using Windows 2000 on a laptop. Since we're told in no uncertain terms that the film is set in late 1999, this indicates that super-villains have access to advance copies of Microsoft's latest offering. If I were running mission-critical operations like a scheme to undermine the supply of oil and thereby hold the world to hostage, forcing everyone to come begging to me for fossil fuels (while I laughed in my sinister yet gloating way, bwahahahaa, bwahahahahaa), I wouldn't do so with pre-release software.
Elsewhere in the film we see a nuclear bomb, which Bond is required to defuse. I don't wish to spoil the film for you, so I won't say whether he does or does not manage to stop it blowing up in time. What I will say is that the timer mechanism to which the fuse is connected has an LCD display which shows that it is running Windows CE. Bill Gates has said he wants to make CE a truly portable embedded operating system, cropping up in devices from cars to toasters. But nuclear bombs? I think that's a bit much. In fact, I'm pretty sure the Windows CE End-User License Agreement states in part that Microsoft does not recommend use of the product in nuclear installations.
Clearly this villain has not carefully read and understood the EULA before installing the software - not only evil, but also reckless. I'll bet they don't pay for shareware either.
Just purely as an aside, I'm not sure that this type of product placement is particularly beneficial for IBM or Microsoft. While BMW cars, Ericsson phones and Omega watches all benefit from Bond's aura, the operating systems become inextricably linked to the bad guys. Granted, Windows doesn't exactly have a lot of feel-good, super-hero gloss to it at the moment, but it surely doesn't help it to become the OS choice of super-villains. I suspect an ad saying `80 per cent of megalomaniacs hell-bent on world domination choose Windows' wouldn't pass muster, even in the more evil reaches of Microsoft's marketing department.
And of course the real losers out of all this are the VARs, ISVs and integrators who used to do all the IT work for super-villains. In my day, Bond villains had mega death-rays, doomsday machines, evil super-computers and generally nasty gadgets, but they were all custom solutions built from the ground up to their specifications. Can you imagine Blofeld or his minions heading into Harvey Norman and asking for a diamond-powered laser, a top-secret stolen encryption machine and two of those world-domination computers? Sure, you only really need one, but if you have two you can play Quake.
No, that wouldn't happen. It's purpose-built all the way for the great Bond villains - none of this shrink-wrapped off-the-shelf garbage. But the failures of the early Bond villains are driving the newer ones to look for solutions elsewhere. Channel opportunities are being lost, and you are the true victims.
There is only one thing for it. If the channel is to survive, your mission is clear: you must destroy 007.
Matthew JC. Powell is the editor of ARN's sister publication PC Buyer. E-mail him at matthew_powell@ idg.com.au