Windows Show diary

The Windows Show '96, held at Olympia last week could well have be re-named the Internet Show '96, such was the presence of Internet stands and punters desperate to get into cyberspace.

However, the three-day event did show off some of the more stunning capabilities of Microsoft's latest operating system. Many of the vendors even used technology to do so - which is unusual because most computer shows rely on a sprinkling of glamorous women with pearly grins telling you about the latest 32-bit accountancy kit.

Getting the audience's attention is of course the be-all-and-end-all of a successful show and Microsoft wasted no time in getting its message out loud and clear. So loud, in fact, that on Tuesday morning a press conference was seriously disturbed by the racket coming from the speakers on one of the stands. It was quietened only by the intervention of one of the vendeuses.

IBM was making a noise also, but thankfully it was pleasanter: a pair of Blues Brothers lookalikes sang "I Need You" to draw attention to its OS/2 operating system. Unfortunately for Big Blue, it will take more than a pair of beshaded clones to rescue the platform.

Tuesday morning also saw the launch of BT's mass-market Internet offering. BT Internet is the first to provide a cut-down version of the Net; BT has deemed certain areas of the Internet "unsuitable" and therefore does not allow access. "If a site contains a word that points to illegal content, we will stop access to it," said one official. "For example, cockfighting is illegal in Britain. Access to newsgroups with the word cockfighting is not permitted."

CompuServe, which uses intelligent software and parental education to govern its access, caused a few smiles by getting two of its staff to walk around the show dressed as a stick of broccoli and an aged fisherman. The costumes were to promote a new cybersociety called World's Away, where people can wander around an animated world (online). Currently, if you want to chat online, all you see is your text, but with World's Away, you can see lots of characters or "avatars" and speak to those you want. Martin Turner, CompuServe's general manager for the UK, believes "this is the way online communication is going".

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