I donâ€™t know you personally but Iâ€™m prepared to make a few educated guesses about the sorts of things that grab your interest. Youâ€™re reading a British IT website so youâ€™re probably male and aged in your 20â€™s or 30â€™s. Naturally youâ€™re interested in IT technology but Iâ€™d hope that you have a more general interest in technology and the way that things work. Perhaps you read the novels of Terry Pratchett and the travelogues of Bill Bryson, and of course we all agree that Douglas Adams was a genius who was taken from us at far too early an age. Weâ€™ll gloss over your enjoyment of Star Trek as itâ€™s a bit embarrassing (right Benny? ed.).
Going out on a limb, Iâ€™m prepared to place a small bet that you have an interest in motorsport, rather than bat and ball games such as cricket, football or golf. This is right and proper but tell me, do you follow F1, touring cars, American oval racing or motorcycles?
Iâ€™m writing this column a week early as Iâ€™m about to go on holiday for a week and today (Sunday 31st July) weâ€™ve got the choice of Moto GP from the Sachsenring in Germany or Formula 1 from the Hungaroring in Hungary. The F1 has had the usual hype including pages of coverage in the newspapers and a snippet on the motorsport page of news.bbc.co.uk every single day of the week, regardless of whether there is anything to say or not. By contrast coverage of the build-up to the Moto GP has been minimal, even though the race will be broadcast both on the BBC and on Eurosport.
Iâ€™m not particularly fussed about the column inches that are dedicated to a particular sport. After all if popularity was the determining factor then angling would merit many pages while cricket â€“ surely â€“ would wither and die. As Bill Bryson reminds us, cricket is the only sport to include meal breaks, but letâ€™s get back to the ludicrous coverage that F1 receives. It is a sport that is heavily dependant on technology, hence the Panasonic, AMD, Intel and HP logos scattered around the paddock, except that there is very little sport involved in the proceedings. You can analyse the thing to pieces but at its root motorsport needs competition and overtaking on the track to maintain the viewerâ€™s interest. F1 is so screwed up that only six cars started the US race after a fiasco with Michelinâ€™s tyres with fourteen cars pulling into the pits after the sighting lap, so Alonso who was on pole and was the first to pit was declared seventh place finisher though he didnâ€™t even make the start of the race.
Iâ€™ve attended two hospitality days at the Silverstone F1 in recent years and on both occasions the days were great social events but the motorsport aspect was almost irrelevant with most coverage concentrating on the roads around Silverstone and issues of car parking for spectators and for Bernie Ecclestone. At no point do the commentators mention that Silverstone is built on a World War 2 airfield and is a bleak, desolate place that has no character and which is rubbish for F1 racing. So today they are at Hungaroring which, like Monaco, absolutely prohibits overtaking, so the race itself was a boring procession which offered the spectator absolutely nothing. By contrast the Moto GP was an emotional rollercoaster which went down to the last lap when Valentino Rossi forced Sete Giberbau into a mistake, and thus showed why he is one of the top ten highest paid sportsmen in the world.
So what, you may be wondering, does this have to do with IT? My underlying point is that a skilled operator can take a reasonable product, market the hell out of it and in the process can surpass a product that is better in every practical sense. If you care about sport and entertainment then Moto GP beats F1 hands down, however Ecclestone has transformed F1 into a spectacular event despite the fact that the racing is rubbish and in the process he has become a billionaire.
Itâ€™s a bit of a stretch from F1 to processors but Intel has managed â€˜an Ecclestoneâ€™ by increasing sales and profits even though its desktop processors arenâ€™t in the same league as AMD Athlon 64 and Opteron processors. Granted it has a superb infrastructure of chipsets and motherboards and its mobile Centrino platform is a wonder to behold, but even so youâ€™d have thought that Intel should be hurting just a little, yet it goes from strength to strength.