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It's more than my job's worth...


Here I am sitting in the Press Room at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. I’m surrounded by the very latest in technological achievements, but even this environment isn’t safe from the mindless bureaucracy that seems to affect our lives on a daily basis.

Let me paint a picture for you. The Press Room at any major event like this resembles a game of musical chairs, or one of those annoying car park trawls when you’re hoping, just hoping that someone will decide to leave just as you approach their space. You can spend quite a while looking for somewhere to work – some stations are just empty desk space, while others have notebooks in situ in case you don’t have one of your own.

So, imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Press Room to discover several places free! Surely there must have been some kind of mistake, or perhaps there was a fire in the building, or even an outbreak of some kind of contagious disease and evacuation had already started. Pushing these scenarios to one side I decided to sit at the first open place, which had one of the house laptops in place. I carefully pushed the resident laptop to one side, placed my own notebook on the desk and started to work.

Imagine my surprise therefore when one of the CES blue shirts patrolling the Press Room came over to me and told me that it was “forbidden” for me to use the LAN connection from the resident laptop in my own notebook. I was of course staggered by the complete lack of logic presented to me. I was only allowed access to the Ethernet via the resident notebook and not my own. Being far too tired to argue, I just allowed the blue shirt to unplug the network cable and I continued working using the Wi-Fi network.

Ten more minutes passed before the head blue shirt approached me and told me that I “wasn’t allowed” to sit in that spot if I was using my own computer. Apparently the fact that I wasn’t using the wired Ethernet was not enough of a sacrifice to appease the god of the Press Room, and obviously the blue shirts didn’t want to anger him any further. The actual reasoning (if you can call it reasoning) given to me was that Lenovo had paid to have its notebooks on those tables and therefore no other notebooks could be used!

Now, I could be mistaken, but I’m fairly certain that a room full of the most experienced and no doubt cynical technology journalists in the world is unlikely to be swayed in the direction of any particular notebook manufacturer just because they are forced (yes forced) to use one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Lenovo ThinkPads, which makes it all the more ridiculous that I should be told that I wasn’t allowed to do my job efficiently because of a sponsorship deal.

So, right now I’m sitting here writing this column on the resident laptop on my table, since there are no spaces in the room where I’m “allowed” to use my own machine. Of course the strangest part of this situation is that I had assumed (obviously wrongly) that the Press Room at CES was there to help journalists do their job. I had thought that it was a resource with which professional technology writers could file stories from the show and let the world know about all the latest innovations that were being announced. Unfortunately it would appear that the Press Room is not there to make my job easier, because if it was I’d be writing up a story on my own notebook right now, but instead I’m writing about a ridiculous marketing ploy that’s making it ten times harder to do an already difficult job.

But without a doubt, the most ludicrous aspect of this whole scenario is the fact that I don’t know a single technology journalist that doesn’t travel with a notebook. So what you’ve got at the main CES Press Room is a situation where the vast majority of working space forces journalists to work in an inefficient manner – transporting data from their own machines to the resident laptops just so they can write up stories.

Do I think that this column will make the CEA rethink its strategy with the Press Facilities at CES next year? Somehow I doubt it, but at least it’s made me feel a bit better!

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