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Culture

Worst of both Worlds

CHICAGO--Nothing is what it seems at summer Internet World.

CHICAGO--Nothing is what it seems at summer Internet World. Here on the humid shores of Lake Michigan, I'm hearing product pitches disguised as keynote addresses, as well as keynotes disguised as questions from the audience. Along the same lines, on arrival I was handed a press kit packaged as a pizza. What late-night caffeine trip inspired WebPosition to distribute its press kit in a Domino's box? The two $5 gift certificates redeemable at Domino's buried under all the glossy promotional materials was some compensation for this immensely frustrating marketing tease, I suppose. But isn't eating Domino's in Chicago like eating La Choy in China?

The buzz at the show so far is that there isn't very much. In his opening keynote, Sprint CEO Bill Esrey noted that if you cut open an electrical wire and stick your finger in it, you'll be electrocuted. Then he told us optimistically: "We're waiting for a data network connection that will do the same thing!" I'm not sure even that charming scenario would have elicited signs of life from Esrey's audience, which had been frozen into a stupefied silence either by video clips from ION focus groups or by the sub-Arctic temperature of the auditorium.

It's about 90 degrees now in Chicago, and the natives refrigerate the indoors as though July made them yearn for winter. I don't usually use the SkinkPad to take notes, but yesterday I fired it up for the sake of its toasty battery, which kept my lap from frosting over.

Rumor has it that drooping attendance at this delightful affair has inspired organizers to seek out smaller pastures. Summer Internet World '99 may wind up taking a long walk on a short pier.

All of this is enough to make me nostalgic for last week's Macworld Expo in the city known as the Big Apple, where a company of a similar name clearly was intent on showing its partners a good time. Some big-kahuna Mac resellers were seen schmoozing top Apple execs on a cruise around Manhattan island, and the only subsequent complaints appear to have resulted from the next morning's hangovers. At the main Apple event, attendees frolicked the night away at Webster Hall, which as dance clubs go is hotter these days than my laptop's bottom.

But underneath this iMacculate veneer linger troubling doubts. What, inquiring minds wanted to know, lies behind the plastic door on the iMac that covers up the USB, modem, and Ethernet connectors? A small metal flap held in place by two screws, behind which--nothing! The motherboard doesn't have any connectors on the other side. Product manager Tom Boger says that sheet metal surrounds the motherboard, and that Apple decided to cut a hole there "just in case" it need to put something there in the future.

Can it really be that simple? Not with Apple--there's always a conspiracy. Given the iMac's lineage (note the "Columbus" stamp on the motherboard, evidence of its shared heritage with the shelved set-top box/DVD/DSS player of the same code name), some suspect there's a place in Apple's heart for a proprietary expansion slot for some nefarious purpose, while others believe the cover-up is trying to hide the existence of a video card for connecting to TVs in its former life as a set-top.

Speaking of entertainment, kudos to high-minded journalists (wherever they may be) who have resisted writing about that soft-core porn hoax that so many are salivating over. Meanwhile, here's something more to fan those flames--adult readers only please (verboten for you, Vermel). Poetry like this reminds us that it's possible to raise AOHell by day and court the muses by night. My two cents, after failing to access the now famous den of gullibility: What are we to expect from the venture if they can't even get their server up? I'm up at all hours of the night awaiting your rumors, so send, send, send!