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A royal bore in Silicon Valley

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and California Governor Pete Wilson kick off a four-day conference here that aims to be an intercontinental schmoozefest.

SANTA CLARA, California--His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York and currently the fourth heir to the English throne, and California's Governor Pete Wilson kicked off a four-day conference here that aims to be an intercontinental schmoozefest for U.K. high-tech companies and their Silicon Valley counterparts.

"helvetica"="" size="-1" color="#666666">Prince Andrew addresses the conference.
The media event is taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Despite the presence of a dashing minor nobleperson--"He's a very good-looking man," said one of the event's young female organizers--the opening keynote session drew about 150 people, a good portion of which were security guards and PR handlers. The royal family member currently known as Prince and the governor made brief opening remarks, followed by the U.K.'s chief scientific adviser and two American IT executives.

"helvetica"="" size="-1" color="#666666">Gov. Pete Wilson (left) and Prince Andrew applaud as Gateway 2000 CEO Ted Waitt delivers his remarks.
Gateway 2000 CEO Ted Waitt and Oracle president and COO Ray Lane did their best to hold the crowd's interest with boilerplate remarks about the immediate future of information technology.

Waitt infused his speech with what he called "humanistic values" that guide his company's philosophy and warned that computer prices need to come down to avoid a "bifurcation of society into information haves and have-nots."

He did not say if Gateway would volunteer to lead the price-slashing charge. Not surprisingly, Waitt also touted the long-term viability of the PC as an information center that could receive content from the Internet, TV broadcasts, and cable and satellite transmissions.

Oracle's Lane followed with a stern denouncement of the PC's increasing size and complexity and posited that the Network Computer, in which Oracle is a major developer, was the answer to bring computing to the "disenfranchised" of the world.

Invoking the rhetoric of his bearded leader, Lane painted a Disney-esque picture of NCs bringing the world together in harmony.

"helvetica"="" size="-1" color="#666666">California Gov. Pete Wilson
"NCs will give teachers constituencies of students the size of Madonna and Michael Jackson; they'll be as famous as rock stars with salaries to match," he said.

Career politician Governor Wilson undoubtedly would have felt right at home among such outrageous claims, but he was already in his limousine. Meanwhile, Prince Andrew toured the exhibit floor, with the press and photographers kept too far away to notice if he had any idea what this stuff was all about.

Photos by Donald R. Winslow, CNET: The Computer Network