Tying Up Loose Ends

(This column first appeared in the April 9, 1996 issue of PC Graphics Report)

It’s been a long, rough week. Two and a half conferences, way too many parties and dinners, and a vacation that’s taken me 700 miles by mini-van in 4 days. For those interested, there are no garlic-oriented restaurants in Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world; lots of Germans visit Yosemite during Easter; the Redwoods are majestic; and Eureka as it exists today does not inspire one to shout out its own name.

However, the real news is what happened, or didn’t happen, at the Computer Game Developers Conference (CGDC) and WinHEC last week.

More on Microsoft’s Personal Computer Appliance
Last week I regaled you with my “vision” that Microsoft will enter the consumer electronics market by the end of the year. Well, at WinHEC I had opportunity to attend a Press luncheon, where our featured Microsoft hosts were none other than Carl Stork, Microsoft’s technical VP big whig, and John Ludwig, VP of the Internet Division. Seeing as I would have no time better than then, I asked both Microsoft representatives “Are there any plans for a Microsoft branded home computing appliance?”

The response? A pregnant pause, nervous laughter, and a comment from Carl saying “Gee, I don’t have any such plans <giggle giggle>, do you, John?”. Of course, John chuckled a little rigidly and indicated that he personally had no such plans either. The consensus from fellow members of the press around the table I was sitting at was that I appeared to have stumbled onto something.

Something interesting is definitely brewing at Microsoft with respect to such a device, and time will tell for sure what exactly it is. Any bet takers?

By the way, did you know that Microsoft is the Java company? If they say it, it must be true, right?

Booths Better Left At Home
When wandering through exhibit halls at various shows and conferences, I most often see exhibit booths that are just plain bland and boring. More rarely I see booths that just by existing evoke an internal response. Some of these responses are positive, and some are not.

At CGDC, the Creative Labs booth caught my attention. The first thought that ran through my mind was that they hadn’t had enough time to complete their 20×20 booth set-up. Then, I realized it was intentional. For those of you not lucky enough to attend, Creative’s booth consisted of a bunch of scaffolding with monitors set in weird places, and booth staff wearing construction hats. For the life of me, all I could think of is that Creative is trying to tell people that its products are always “under construction”, and never quite ready for market. I doubt that’s the message they were trying to present. The lesson? Next time your company tries to do something clever in a trade show booth, get a couple of outside opinions so that the message doesn’t get lost in the spurt of creative energies that came up with the original booth idea.

NVidia Does Windows
Thanks to Diamond’s great marketing staff, I’ve had a brand spanking new Diamond 3D Edge board (based on the NVidia NV-1 3D chip) in my office since the beginning of the year. And in my office is where it has stayed. The one time I had the time and urge to install it in my system, I discovered that it didn’t have any Windows 3.1 display drivers – it only had drivers for Windows 95, since that’s what the Sega games that were ported to the chip required.

Seeing as at the time I spent most of my time in Windows 3.1, the 3D Edge board stayed on the shelf. Even when I moved over to running Windows 95 most of the time, it still stayed there, because I still occasionally need to run Windows 3.1, and I don’t want or care to have to swap graphics boards to do so. Well, at CGDC I discovered that I’m not the only one with this problem, and NVidia is in the process of getting an accelerated 2D Windows 3.1 driver out the door, and Diamond will soon have it available as well.

The moral of this story is: Don’t bet everything you have on a Windows 95 specific solution. Make sure to offer backward compatibility, and you’ll almost definitely sell more product, whether it be hardware or software.

Have I mentioned that Microsoft is the Java company?

3DR is Dead! Long Live 3DR!
It’s sad but true. I spoke with a senior technical person at Intel, and 3DR, Intel’s aborted attempt at a 3D API, is effectively dead. Microsoft doesn’t want Intel to promote it, and in typical fashion, Intel has bowed to the Great God of Redmond. The only 3DR effort still going on is the support of an ever dwindling number of 3DR users. Once that numberĀ  hits close to 0, expect 3DR to disappear from the face of this earth entirely.

Bag It
In closing this week’s column, I’d like to complement Microsoft (the Java company) and its partners for creating and handing out the best show bag I’ve ever received. The WinHEC canvas bag has more zippers, hiding places, and straps to carry and secure the whole thing than any other I’ve ever seen. Plus, it has enough interior volume to carry loads of material, notebook computers, and more.

That bag contrasts sharply with the ATI/Microsoft bag handed out at the Microsoft Game Developer’s Seminar II, which, when coincidentally carried by a friend of mine who happens to work for ATI, had a strap snap, plunging his notebook computer to the concrete floor below.

I’m not sure what the lesson here is, but seeing as pretty much everything else in my column this week has preached a lesson or moral, I’d guess at: Don’t put your company’s name on an inferior bag, because everyone will remember it.