Lights, Camera, Action

It’s hard to remain immune to the fancy allure and excessive folly that is the business of information technology.

The self-indulgent antics of the industry’s star performers, the so-called heavyweights such as Larry Ellison, Craig Conway and Scott McNealy, make Hollywood look positively B-grade.

There is nothing geeky, staid or boring about an industry so predisposed to theatrics especially when it comes to seducing buyers.

The recent PeopleSoft user conference is a case in point with the company’s CEO Craig Conway presenting his keynote address accompanied by his black labrador Abby. In the true spirit of show business they were both wearing bulletproof vests, Conway and the dog!

Why? It was a swipe at Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Earlier this year Conway said Oracle’s takeover bid was akin to having someone buy your dog in order to shoot it. Naturally, Ellison responded in true vaudeville style and said if he had only one bullet he wouldn’t use it on Conway’s dog. These merry high jinks were only weeks after The SCO Group conference where executives arrived with a virtual SWAT team and warned the audience of global IBM conspiracies.

Do you know of any media magnate or fast food king that addresses shareholder meetings with the family pet on a leash ranting about conspiracies? Of course not, they are not part of the IT industry, the wonderful and unique world of computers. Like show business, any staged IT event, even a product demo, can be transformed into a circus.

It is a world where even a hint of acquisition activity can have executives in a paranoid spin. Who can forget the courtroom drama that was the merger of HP and Compaq — now this was soap opera at its best.

Walter Hewlett, defending the company his father co-founded, launched a legal battle against the merger. CEO Carly Fiorinia, the daughter of a US District Judge, withstood seven hours on the witness stand over two days to ensure the corporate marriage went ahead as planned. And the next instalment? Analysts are predicting there will be more mergers claiming 2004 will be a year of market consolidation.

Yep, we all know what that means, Showtime and I’m just quivering with anticipation.

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